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Five Decades of Educational Assortative Mating

Robert D. Mare
American Sociological Review
Vol. 56, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 15-32
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095670
Page Count: 18
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Five Decades of Educational Assortative Mating
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Abstract

The tendency for persons with similar amounts of schooling to marry one another is linked to other aspects of marriage behavior and to patterns of social stratification. Whether persons with similar amounts of formal schooling marry each other depends partly on their preferences and partly on the structure of the marriage market. An important aspect of the marriage market is the timing of the transition out of school and into marriage. Marriages between persons with different amounts of schooling are less likely for highly educated persons and for persons who marry shortly after leaving school. Census and Current Population Survey data from 1940 to 1987 indicate that the association between spouses' schooling increased between the 1930s and the 1970s and was stable or decreased in the 1980s. This trend occurred partly because the time gap between schooling and marriage shortened from the 1930s to the 1960s as a result of increased educational attainment and lowered age at marriage; the time gap lengthened in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of increased age at marriage. After estimated trends in educational assortative mating are adjusted for the length of time between school leaving and marriage, some evidence of increased homogamy from the 1930s to the 1980s remains. This may result from increasing competition in the marriage market for wives with good prospects in the labor market. Increases in educational homogamy may increase inequality among families and in the socioeconomic achievement of their offspring.

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