Educational Homogamy and Gender-Specific Earnings: Sweden, 1990–2009

Abstract

Several studies have shown strong educational homogamy in most Western societies, although the trends over time differ across countries. In this article, we study the connection between educational assortative mating and gender-specific earnings in a sample containing the entire Swedish population born 1960–1974; we follow this sample from 1990 to 2009. Our empirical strategy exploits a longitudinal design, using distributed fixed-effects models capturing the impact of partner education on postmarital earnings, relating it to the income development before union formation. We find that being partnered with someone with more education (hypergamy) is associated with higher earnings, while partnering someone with less education (hypogamy) is associated with lower earnings. However, most of these differences in earnings emerge prior to the time of marriage, implying that the effect is explained by marital selection processes rather than by partner education affecting earnings. The exception is hypogamy among the highly educated, for which there are strong indications that in comparison with homogamy and hypergamy, earnings grow slower after union formation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hence, cohabitants who do not have children or marry are included in the reference category of the never-married in the analysis. If there are union premiums also in this group, it implies that the estimated union premiums are conservative, but there are no reasons to believe that it would affect the hypergamy and hypogamy premiums because changes in the reference category affects the different types of unions in the same way.

  2. 2.

    There are 126,507 native-born individuals in mixed ethnic unions (constituting about 12 % of the full sample) who are excluded from the analysis. Sensitivity analysis shows that inclusion of these unions does not change the results (not shown).

  3. 3.

    This restriction excludes about 5 % of the observations. Again, sensitivity analysis reveals that including them does not affect the results (not shown).

  4. 4.

    A sensitivity test shows that the estimated hypergamy and hypogamy premiums are robust against the inclusion/exclusion of these benefits (results not shown).

  5. 5.

    Using Swedish data from 1991, Antelius and Björklund (2000) showed that by imposing a threshold of 100,000 SEK when analyzing annual earnings based on tax records, one receives a return to education similar to the one obtained from using hourly wages. Admittedly, the earnings restriction applied here is lower (64,400 SEK in 1991), but the vast majority of observations pertain to individuals earning more than 100,000 SEK. To the extent that Antelius’s and Björklund’s results can be generalized to the present analysis, the estimated earnings premiums should reflect the wage premium rather closely, although the settings of the studies differ.

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Acknowledgements

This work is part of the project Partner Choice and Career, financed by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS). Previous versions of this article were presented at the meetings of the European Society for Population Economics 2010, the Population Association of America 2011, and the RC28 2011 (University of Essex) as well as at a seminar at the Center for Labor Market Policy Research, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden. We thank participants at these occasions for valuable comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Martin Dribe.

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Dribe, M., Nystedt, P. Educational Homogamy and Gender-Specific Earnings: Sweden, 1990–2009. Demography 50, 1197–1216 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-012-0188-7

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Keywords

  • Educational homogamy
  • Assortative mating
  • Marriage premium
  • Distributed fixed effects
  • Earnings