The Growing Economic Resemblance of Spouses: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?

Pilar Gonalons Pons, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Christine R. Schwartz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising economic inequality among married couple households in the United States. Little is known, however, about why the association between spouses’ earnings increased. Did it increase primarily because of increases in assortative mating or because of changes in the division of labor after marriage? This paper uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to decompose increases in the correlation between spouses’ earnings from 1970 to 2009 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating and (b) changes in the division of labor after marriage. We find that both processes contributed to the growing economic resemblance of spouses, but that changes after marriage exert a much larger impact compared to changes in assortative mating.

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Presented in Session 181: Family Structure, Homogamy, and Economic Inequality