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Spouse Selection and Earnings: Evidence of Marital Sorting


  • Nakosteen, Robert A
  • Zimmer, Michael A


This article investigates economic bases for individuals' selection of marriage partners. Its central focus is matching of spouse pairs based on unobservable components of hourly earnings. Using a data extract from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we have observations of individuals' wages before and immediately after marriage, along with their spouses' earnings after marriage. We exploit the data to estimate the relation between spouses' wage residuals. The evidence supports positive marital matching on the basis of earnings. The results are robust with respect to variations in the statistical framework of the model. Copyright 2001 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Nakosteen, Robert A & Zimmer, Michael A, 2001. "Spouse Selection and Earnings: Evidence of Marital Sorting," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 201-213, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:39:y:2001:i:2:p:201-13

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
    2. Fehr, Ernst & Gachter, Simon, 1998. "Reciprocity and economics: The economic implications of Homo Reciprocans1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 845-859, May.
    3. Lensberg, T. & van der Heijden, E.C.M., 1998. "A cross-cultural study of reciprocity, trust and altruism in a gift exchange experiment," Discussion Paper 1998-77, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    4. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-851, September.
    5. Burlando, Roberto & Hey, John D., 1997. "Do Anglo-Saxons free-ride more?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 41-60, April.
    6. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    7. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
    8. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Why free ride? : Strategies and learning in public goods experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 291-304, December.
    9. Andreoni, James A & Miller, John H, 1993. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(418), pages 570-585, May.
    10. Sugden, Robert, 1984. "Reciprocity: The Supply of Public Goods through Voluntary Contributions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 772-787, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nielsen, Helena Skyt & Svarer, Michael, 2006. "Educational Homogamy: Preferences or Opportunities?," IZA Discussion Papers 2271, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Christopher A. Jepsen & Lisa K. Jepsen, 2006. "The Sexual Division of Labor Within Households: Comparisons of Couples to Roommates," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(2), pages 299-312, Spring.
    3. Steven F. Koch, 2005. "Love and Addiction: The Importance of Commitment," Working Papers 200516, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    4. repec:kap:iaecre:v:14:y:2008:i:4:p:448-459 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Mercan, Murat A., 2011. "Assortative mating and Turkish marriage market," MPRA Paper 32261, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Solomon Polachek, 2003. "Mincer's Overtaking Point and the Life Cycle Earnings Distribution," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 1(4), pages 273-304, December.
    7. Rebekka Christopoulou & Dean R. Lillard, 2016. "Migration to the US and marital mobility," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 669-694, September.
    8. Peter Groothuis & Paul Gabriel, 2010. "Positive assortative mating and spouses as complementary factors of production: a theory of labour augmentation," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(9), pages 1101-1111.
    9. Robert A. Nakosteen & Olle Westerlund & Michael A. Zimmer, 2004. "Marital Matching and Earnings: Evidence from the Unmarried Population in Sweden," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(4).
    10. Martin Dribe & Paul Nystedt, 2013. "Educational Homogamy and Gender-Specific Earnings: Sweden, 1990–2009," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(4), pages 1197-1216, August.
    11. Blackaby, D.H. & Carlin, Paul S. & Murphy, P.D., 2007. "A change in the earnings penalty for British men with working wives: Evidence from the 1980's and 1990's," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 119-134, January.
    12. Younghwan Song, 2007. "The working spouse penalty/premium and married women’s labor supply," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 279-304, September.
    13. Solomon Polachek, 2002. "Mincer s Overtaking Point on the Lifecycle Earnings Distribution," LIS Working papers 310, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    14. Sophie Buffeteau & Damien Echevin, 2008. "Taxation and marriage: Evidence from a natural experiment in France," Cahiers de recherche 08-01, Departement d'Economique de l'École de gestion à l'Université de Sherbrooke.
    15. Courtemanche, Charles, 2008. "Working Yourself to Death? The Relationship Between Work Hours and Obesity," MPRA Paper 25324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Michael Svarer, 2007. "Working Late: Do Workplace Sex Ratios Affect Partnership Formation and Dissolution?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
    17. Valerio Filoso, 2010. "Bright and Wealthy: Exploring Assortative Mating," Chapters,in: Institutional and Social Dynamics of Growth and Distribution, chapter 10 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. Ze'ev Shtudiner, 2015. "The Marriage Premium and Productivity: The Case of NBA Players," International Journal of Economic Sciences, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences, vol. 4(4), pages 53-65, December.
    19. Martin Dribe & Jan Van Bavel & Cameron Campbell, 2012. "Social mobility and demographic behaviour: Long term perspectives," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 26(8), pages 173-190, March.
    20. Lisa Jepsen & Christopher Jepsen, 2002. "An empirical analysis of the matching patterns of same-sex and opposite-sex couples," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(3), pages 435-453, August.
    21. Sonia Dalmia & Paul Sicilian, 2008. "Kids Cause Specialization: Evidence for Becker’s Household Division of Labor Hypothesis," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 14(4), pages 448-459, November.

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