Same-occupation spouses: preferences or search costs?

Original Paper


Married individuals match with spouses who share their occupation more frequently than should happen by chance if marriage markets are large frictionless search markets covering a particular geographic area. This suggests that either there is a preference for same-occupation matches or that search costs are lower within occupation. This paper uses 2008–2015 data from the American Community Survey to analyze same-occupation matching among a sample of recently married couples. Our empirical strategy compares the difference in wages between same-occupation husbands and different-occupation husbands across occupations with different percent male workers. Under a preference explanation, this difference should become less negative as the share of males in the occupation increases. Under a search cost explanation, this difference should become more negative as the share of males increases. Our results are consistent with the search cost explanation. Furthermore, using an occupation-specific index of workplace communication, we demonstrate that the results are most consistent with the search cost mechanism for occupations with a greater degree of workplace communication. Finally, we show that matching on field of degree for couples in which both spouses have a college degree is also consistent with the search cost explanation.


Marital matching Occupation Sex composition Search costs 

JEL classification

J12 J24 



We gratefully acknowledge helpful comments from Chris Bollinger, Murat Iyigun, and Rick Mansfield and two anonymous referees as well as seminar participants at the University of Kentucky, Osaka University, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, UC-Santa Barbara, Deakin University, SEA annual meetings, SOLE/EALE World Congress, and the IZA/SOLE transatlantic meetings.

Compliance with ethical standards:

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Colorado Denver and IZADenverUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado and IZABoulderUSA

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