Declining Racial Stratification in Marriage Choices? Trends in Black-White Status Exchange in the U.S. 1980-2010

Florencia Torche, New York University (NYU)
Peter Rich, New York University (NYU)

The status exchange hypothesis suggests that in black-white marriages one spouse’s educational status is traded for the other spouse’s racial status. Exchange is claimed to emerge from strong social and economic barriers between racial groups. If so, then exchange should decline as interracial marriage becomes more prevalent. We examine trends in status exchange among black-white marriages between 1980 and 2010, a period over which these unions have increased from 0.4% to 2.3% of all young couples in the US. Contrary to our expectation, status exchange has not declined and it may have increased as interracial couples become more prevalent. Trends over time are the product of two forces: Exchange increases across cohorts but it declines as cohorts age and experience late marriage and remarriage.

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Presented in Session 13: Race and Ethnicity and Families