Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Assortative Mating and Intergenerational Persistence of Schooling and Earnings

Handy, Christopher (2014): Assortative Mating and Intergenerational Persistence of Schooling and Earnings.

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Abstract

Research on intergenerational mobility has often treated outcomes such as schooling and earnings as being imperfectly transmitted from one parent to a child. But because the characteristics of both parents are important in shaping children’s outcomes, the way in which a generation of parents is sorted into couples is likely to be a key determinant of intergenerational persistence. Mating patterns are assortative—that is, individuals tend to partner with people similar to themselves—and this is typically measured by similarity of educational attainment. I present the first estimates of the effect of assortative mating on intergenerational persistence of schooling and earnings. I measure assortative mating as the rank correlation of couples’ educational attainment, that is, the degree to which the most highly-educated men partner with the most highly-educated women. Using data on parents and children in the United States, I find that assortative mating explains about one quarter of the observed intergenerational persistence of schooling and earnings.

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