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Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?

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  • Pilar Gonalons-Pons

    (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)

  • Christine R. Schwartz

    (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

Abstract

The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.

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  • Pilar Gonalons-Pons & Christine R. Schwartz, 2017. "Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(3), pages 985-1005, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0576-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-017-0576-0
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    3. Visser, Mark & Fasang, Anette Eva, 2018. "Educational assortative mating and couples’ linked late-life employment trajectories," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 79-90.
    4. Holmlund, Helena, 2019. "How much does marital sorting contribute to intergenerational socio-economic persistence?," Working Paper Series 2019:21, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    5. Zhengyu Cai & Heather M. Stephens & John V. Winters, 2019. "Motherhood, migration, and self-employment of college graduates," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 53(3), pages 611-629, October.
    6. Pierre-André Chiappori & Edoardo Ciscato & Carla Guerriero, 2020. "Analyzing Matching Patterns in Marriage: Theory and Application to Italian Data," Working Papers 2020-080, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    7. Diederik Boertien & Iñaki Permanyer, 2017. "Educational assortative mating as a determinant of changing household income inequality: A 22-country study," LIS Working papers 719, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    8. Pierre-André Chiappori & Edoardo Ciscato & Carla Guerriero, 2021. "Analyzing Matching Patterns in Marriage:Theory and Application to Italian Data," CSEF Working Papers 613, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    9. , Stone Center & Yonzan, Nishant, 2020. "Assortative Mating and Labor Income Inequality: Evidence from Fifty Years of Coupling in the U.S," SocArXiv 4whvs, Center for Open Science.
    10. Janna Bergsvik & Kenneth Aarskaug Wiik & Ragni Hege Kitterød, 2018. "Parenthood and couples’ relative earnings in Norway 2005-2014," Discussion Papers 873, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    11. Carlo V. FIORIO & Stefano VERZILLO, 2018. "Looking in Your Partner’s Pocket Before Saying “Yes!" Income Assortative Mating and Inequality," Departmental Working Papers 2018-02, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    12. Diederik Boertien & Milan Bouchet-Valat, 2020. "Are Increasing Earnings Associations Between Partners of Concern for Inequality? A Comparative Study of 21 Countries," LIS Working papers 793, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.

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