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Educational Assortative Mating and Household Income Inequality

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  • Lasse Eika
  • Magne Mogstad
  • Basit Zafar

Abstract

We document the degree of educational assortative mating, how it evolves over time, and the extent to which it differs between countries. Our analysis focuses on the U.S. but also uses data from Denmark, Germany, the U.K., and Norway. We find evidence of positive assortative mating at all levels of education in each country. However, the time trends vary by the level of education: Among college graduates, assortative mating has been declining over time, whereas the low-educated are increasingly sorting into internally homogeneous marriages. These findings motivate and guide a decomposition analysis where we quantify the contribution of various factors to the distribution of household income. We find that educational assortative mating accounts for a non-negligible part of the cross-sectional inequality in household income in each country. However, changes in assortative mating over time barely move the time trends in household income inequality. This is because the inequality contribution from the increase in assortative mating among the low educated is offset by the equalizing effect from the decline in assortative mating among the highly educated. By comparison, increases over time in the returns to education generate a considerable rise in household income inequality, but these price effects are partly mitigated by increases in college attendance and completion rates among women.

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  • Lasse Eika & Magne Mogstad & Basit Zafar, 2014. "Educational Assortative Mating and Household Income Inequality," NBER Working Papers 20271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20271
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    Cited by:

    1. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    2. repec:eee:labeco:v:48:y:2017:i:c:p:168-182 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0576-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Alena Bicakova & Stepan Jurajda, 2016. "Field-of-Study Homogamy," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp561, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    5. Goussé, Marion & Jacquemet, Nicolas & Robin, Jean-Marc, 2017. "Household labour supply and the marriage market in the UK, 1991-2008," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 131-149.
    6. Jørgen Modalsli, 2017. "Intergenerational Mobility in Norway, 1865–2011," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 34-71, January.
    7. Rania Gihleb, 2014. "Educational Homogamy and Assortative Mating Have Not Increased," Working Paper 6052, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh.
    8. Diederik Boertien & Iñaki Permanyer, 2017. "Educational assortative mating as a determinant of changing household income inequality: A 22-country study," LIS Working papers 719, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    9. Hryshko, Dmytro & Juhn, Chinhui & McCue, Kristin, 2017. "Trends in earnings inequality and earnings instability among U.S. couples: How important is assortative matching?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 168-182.
    10. Estéfano rubio, 2016. "El diálogo de dos desafíos: evolución y relación de la desigualdad y la escolaridad en Chile," Puntos de Referencia DPP-15, Centro de Estudios Públicos.
    11. Feld Lars P. & Schmidt Christoph M., 2016. "Jenseits der schrillen Töne," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 17(2), pages 188-205, July.
    12. repec:bla:econom:v:84:y:2017:i:333:p:104-127 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Duo Qin & Sophie van H¸llen & Qing-Chao Wang, 2014. "What Happens to Wage Elasticities When We Strip Playometrics? Revisiting Married Women Labour Supply Model," Working Papers 190, Department of Economics, SOAS, University of London, UK.
    14. Andrea Gallice & Edoardo Grillo, 2015. "A Model of Educational Investments, Social Concerns and Inequality," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 405, Collegio Carlo Alberto, revised 2018.
    15. Handy, Christopher, 2014. "Assortative Mating and Intergenerational Persistence of Schooling and Earnings," MPRA Paper 63829, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Simon Weber, 2017. "Family, marriage markets and inequality: a matching approach," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/13gl57r1jn8, Sciences Po.
    17. repec:cpt:journl:v::y:2016:i:144:p:61-107 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Duo Qin & Sophie van Huellen & Qing-Chao Wang, 2015. "How Credible Are Shrinking Wage Elasticities of Married Women Labour Supply?," Econometrics, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 1-31, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • 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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