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Legally ever after: How did 1986 immigration reform affect marriage?


  • Gamino, Aaron M.


This paper is the first to study the effects of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 on marriage rates between foreign-born individuals and natural-born citizens. Using marriage license data, I find that gains to marriages involving a native bride and foreign groom decrease by 0.2 log points. The decrease in is driven by reductions in gains to marriages involving a Mexican groom or a non-Canadian, non-Mexican groom. I do not find evidence that the effects differed for states with lower educational attainment or higher shares of illegal immigrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Gamino, Aaron M., 2023. "Legally ever after: How did 1986 immigration reform affect marriage?," Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 89(4), pages 569-585, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:demeco:v:89:y:2023:i:4:p:569-585_2

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    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • K37 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Immigration Law
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination


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