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Racial Differences in Marriage and the Role of Marriage Markets


  • Michael J. Brien


This paper examines the role of marriage markets in explaining racial differences in the timing of marriage. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, evidence is presented on the magnitude and significance of differences in the timing of first marriage between whites and blacks in the United States. Further, by matching the 1980 U.S. census to the longitudinal data, the effect on the marriage decision of a variety of measures of the marriage market is examined. This paper examines marriage markets defined at various levels of geographic aggregation, alternative definitions of what males are considered "marriageable," market variables that control for the education level of the participants, and changes over time in marriage markets. One of the primary results of the experimentation with various definitions is that, relative to the local level, the variables defined at the state level are able to account for more of the racial differences in the timing of marriage. The paper concludes with an examination of this issue and reveals evidence that suggests that measurement error in the variables defined at the local level may be underlying this result.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael J. Brien, 1997. "Racial Differences in Marriage and the Role of Marriage Markets," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(4), pages 741-778.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:32:y:1997:i:4:p:741-778

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