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Marital Sorting and Parental Wealth

  • Kerwin Kofi Charles
  • Erik Hurst
  • Alexandra Killewald

Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), this paper studies the degree to which spouses sort in the marriage market on the basis of parental wealth. We estimate a variety of models, including transition matrices, OLS and TSLS models to deal with measurement error in wealth reports. Our various results show that men and women in the U.S. marry spouses whose parents have wealth similar to that of their own parents; and are very unlikely to marry persons from very different parental wealth backgrounds. This effect is present in the population as a whole, within racial groups, and especially in the tails of the distribution. Our preferred estimates indicate that the correlation in log wealth between own and spouse's parents wealth is around 0.4. We show that education accounts for only one-quarter of this sorting, and also show that selection into and out marriage by parental wealth does not appreciably bias our results.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16748.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Demography February 2013, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 51-70 Marital Sorting and Parental Wealth Kerwin Kofi Charles, Erik Hurst, Alexandra Killewald
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16748
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  1. Saul Hoffman & Greg Duncan, 1988. "What are the economic consequences of divorce?," Demography, Springer, vol. 25(4), pages 641-645, November.
  2. Lillard, L.A. & Waite, L.J., 1993. "'Til Death Do Us Part: Marital Disruption and Mortality," Papers 93-10, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  3. Raquel Fernández & Richard Rogerson, 2001. "Sorting And Long-Run Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1305-1341, November.
  4. Chun, Hyunbae & Lee, Injae, 2001. "Why Do Married Men Earn More: Productivity or Marriage Selection?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 307-19, April.
  5. Robert Barsky & John Bound & Kerwin Charles & Joseph Lupton, 2001. "Accounting for the Black-White Wealth Gap: A Nonparametric Approach," NBER Working Papers 8466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst, 2003. "The Correlation of Wealth across Generations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1155-1182, December.
  7. Pencavel, John, 1998. "Assortative Mating by Schooling and the Work Behavior of Wives and Husbands," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 326-29, May.
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