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The role of evolving marital preferences in growing income inequality

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  • Edoardo Ciscato

    (Sciences Po Paris)

  • Simon Weber

    (University of York)

Abstract

In this paper, we describe mating patterns in the USA from 1964 to 2017 and measure the impact of changes in marital preferences on between-household income inequality. We rely on the recent literature on the econometrics of matching models to estimate complementarity parameters of the household production function. Our structural approach allows us to measure sorting along multiple dimensions and to effectively disentangle changes in marital preferences and in demographics, addressing concerns that affect results from existing literature. We answer the following questions: Has assortativeness increased over time? Along which dimensions? To what extent can the shifts in marital preferences explain inequality trends? We find that, after controlling for other observables, assortative mating in education has become stronger. Moreover, if mating patterns had not changed since 1971, the 2017 Gini coefficient between married households would be 6% lower. We conclude that about 25% of the increase in between-household inequality is due to changes in marital preferences. Increased assortativeness in education positively contributes to the rise in inequality, but only modestly.

Suggested Citation

  • Edoardo Ciscato & Simon Weber, 2020. "The role of evolving marital preferences in growing income inequality," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(1), pages 307-347, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:33:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1007_s00148-019-00739-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s00148-019-00739-4
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    Cited by:

    1. Gigi Foster & Leslie S. Stratton, 0. "Does female breadwinning make partnerships less healthy or less stable?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 0, pages 1-34.
    2. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Salanié, Bernard, 2021. "Mating Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 16041, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
      • Pierre-André Chiappori & Bernard Salanié, 2021. "Mating Markets," Working Papers 2021-016, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Pierre-André Chiappori & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir, 2020. "Changes in Assortative Matching: Theory and Evidence for the US," Working Papers 2020-033, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    4. Gigi Foster & Leslie S. Stratton, 2021. "Does female breadwinning make partnerships less healthy or less stable?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(1), pages 63-96, January.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Matching; Assortative mating; Marital preferences; Between-household inequality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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