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College as a Marriage Market


  • Kirkeboen, Lars

    (University of Oslo)

  • Leuven, Edwin

    (University of Oslo)

  • Mogstad, Magne

    (University of Chicago)


Recent descriptive work suggests the type of college education (field or institution) is an important but neglected pathway through which individuals sort into homogeneous marriages. These descriptive studies raise the question of why college graduates are so likely to marry someone within their own institution or field of study. One possible explanation is that individuals match on traits correlated with the choice of education, such as innate ability, tastes or family environment. Another possible explanation is that the choice of college education causally impacts whether and whom one marries, either because of search frictions or preferences for spousal education. The goal of this paper is to sort out these explanations and, by doing so, examine the role of colleges as marriage markets. Using data from Norway to address key identification and measurement challenges, we find that colleges are local marriage markets, mattering greatly for whom one marries, not because of the pre-determined traits of the admitted students but as a direct result of attending a particular institution at a given time.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirkeboen, Lars & Leuven, Edwin & Mogstad, Magne, 2021. "College as a Marriage Market," IZA Discussion Papers 14264, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp14264

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Regis Barnichon & Andrew Figura, 2015. "Labor Market Heterogeneity and the Aggregate Matching Function," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 222-249, October.
    2. Katja Maria Kaufmann & Matthias Messner & Alex Solis, 2013. "Returns to Elite Higher Education in the Marriage Market: Evidence from Chile," Working Papers 489, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
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    6. Pierre-André Chiappori & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir, 2018. "The Marriage Market, Labor Supply, and Education Choice," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 126(S1), pages 26-72.
    7. Mansour, Hani & McKinnish, Terra, 2014. "Same-Occupation Spouses: Preferences and Search Costs," IZA Discussion Papers 8370, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Pierre-André Chiappori & Bernard Salanié & Yoram Weiss, 2017. "Partner Choice, Investment in Children, and the Marital College Premium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(8), pages 2109-2167, August.
    9. Lasse Eika & Magne Mogstad & Basit Zafar, 2019. "Educational Assortative Mating and Household Income Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(6), pages 2795-2835.
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    12. Michèle Belot & Marco Francesconi, 2013. "Dating Preferences and Meeting Opportunities in Mate Choice Decisions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(2), pages 474-508.
    13. Helena Skyt Nielsen & Michael Svarer, 2009. "Educational Homogamy: How Much is Opportunities?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
    14. Gunter J. Hitsch & Ali Hortaçsu & Dan Ariely, 2010. "Matching and Sorting in Online Dating," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 130-163, March.
    15. Eugene Choo & Aloysius Siow, 2006. "Who Marries Whom and Why," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 175-201, February.
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    17. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
    18. Pierre-André Chiappori, 2020. "The Theory and Empirics of the Marriage Market," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 12(1), pages 547-578, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Artmann, Elisabeth & Ketel, Nadine & Oosterbeek, Hessel & van der Klaauw, Bas, 2021. "Field of study and partner choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 84(C).
    2. Nybom, Martin & Plug, Erik & van der Klaauw, Bas & Ziegler, Lennart, 2022. "Skills, Parental Sorting, and Child Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 15824, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Quentin Lippmann & Khushboo Surana, 2022. "The Hierarchy of Partner Preferences," Discussion Papers 22/08, Department of Economics, University of York.
    4. Lavy, V & Goldstein, Y, 2022. "Gifted Children Programs Short and Long-Term Impact : Higher Education, Earnings, and the Knowledge-Economy," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 609, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    5. Nibbering, Didier & Oosterveen, Matthijs & Silva, Pedro Luís, 2022. "Clustered Local Average Treatment Effects: Fields of Study and Academic Student Progress," IZA Discussion Papers 15159, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Arenas, Andreu & Calsamiglia, Caterina, 2022. "Gender Differences in High-Stakes Performance and College Admission Policies," IZA Discussion Papers 15550, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item


    assortative mating; college; educational homogamy; field of study; marriage market; search frictions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • 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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