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America's settling down: How Better Jobs and Falling Immigration led to a Rise in Marriage, 1880 - 1930

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  • Tomas Cvrcek

Abstract

The growing education and employment of women are usually cited as crucial forces behind the decline of marriage since 1960. However, both trends were already present between 1900 and 1960, during which time marriage became increasingly widespread. This early period differed from the post-1960 decades due to two factors primarily affecting men, one economic and one demographic. First, men's improving labor market prospects made them more attractive as marriage partners to women. Second, immigration had a dynamic effect on partner search costs. Its short-run effect was to fragment the marriage market, making it harder to find a partner of one's preferred ethnic and cultural background. The high search costs led to less marriage and later marriage in the 1890s and 1900s. As immigration declined, the long-run effect was for immigrants and their descendants to gradually integrate with American society. This reduced search costs and increased the marriage rate. The immigration primarily affected the whites' marriage market which is why the changes in marital behavior are much more pronounced among this group than among blacks.

Suggested Citation

  • Tomas Cvrcek, 2010. "America's settling down: How Better Jobs and Falling Immigration led to a Rise in Marriage, 1880 - 1930," NBER Working Papers 16161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16161
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    1. repec:aea:jeclit:v:55:y:2017:i:4:p:1311-45 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Olivetti, Claudia & Paserman, M. Daniele, 2013. "In the Name of the Son (and the Daughter): Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, 1850-1930," CEPR Discussion Papers 9372, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Boustan, 2017. "Immigration in American Economic History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1311-1345, December.
    4. Tie-Ying Liu & Hsu-Ling Chang & Chi-Wei Su, 2017. "Why do People Get Married? An Inframarginal Perspective," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 1281-1295, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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