Skip to main content

Marriage Markets and Intermarriage: Exchange in First Marriages and Remarriages

Abstract

Drawing on data from the American Community Survey, we compare patterns of assortative mating in first marriages, remarriages, and mixed-order marriages. We identify a number of ascribed and achieved characteristics that are viewed as resources available for exchange, both as complements and substitutes. We apply conditional logit models to show how patterns of assortative mating among never-married and previously married persons are subject to local marriage market opportunities and constraints. The results reveal that previously married individuals “cast a wider net”: spousal pairings are more heterogamous among remarriages than among first marriages. Marital heterogamy, however, is reflected in systematic evidence of trade-offs showing that marriage order (i.e., status of being never-married) is a valued trait for exchange. Never-married persons are better positioned than previously married persons to marry more attractive marital partners, variously measured (e.g., highly educated partners). Previously married persons—especially women—are disadvantaged in the marriage market, facing demographic shortages of potential partners to marry. Marriage market constraints take demographic expression in low remarriage rates and in heterogamous patterns of mate selection in which previously married partners often substitute other valued characteristics in marriage with never-married persons.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Among children living with single parents, 86 % lived with mothers (Kreider and Ellis 2011). However, ACS data cannot distinguish whether any children older than 1 (presumably from previous relationships) are the biological child(ren) of the husband, wife, or both. For descriptive analyses, we assume that the mother and not the father is a biological parent of children from previous relationships among currently married couples. Thus, the percentage with children over age 1 is 0 among first-married and remarried men but overcounted among their female counterparts.

  2. An analogous conceptual framework is provided in the residential mobility or white flight literature: white movers identify a set of desirable neighborhoods to live and then a specific house or residence within this limited pool of neighborhoods (see Bader and Krysan 2015). Like our study, conditional logit models have been similarly employed in such studies (Quillian 2015).

References

  • Atkinson, M. P., & Glass, B. L. (1985). Marital age heterogamy and homogamy, 1900 to 1980. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 685–691.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bader, M. D. M., & Krysan, M. (2015). Community attraction and avoidance in Chicago: What’s race got to do with it? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 660, 261–281.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Becker, G. S. (1981). A treatise on the family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bertrand, M., Kamenica, E., & Pan, J. (2015). Gender identity and relative income within households. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130, 571–614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bisin, A., Topa, G., & Verdier, T. (2004). Religious intermarriage and socialization in the United States. Journal of Political Economy, 112, 615–664.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blackwell, D. L., & Lichter, D. T. (2000). Mate selection among married and cohabiting couples. Journal of Family Issues, 21, 275–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cherlin, A. (1978). Remarriage as an incomplete institution. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 634–650.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cherlin, A. (1992). Marriage, divorce, remarriage (Revised and Enlarged ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Choi, H., & Tienda, M. (2017a). Boundary crossing in first marriage and remarriage. Social Science Research, 62, 305–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Choi, K. H., & Tienda, M. (2017b). Marriage-market constraints and mate-selection behavior: Racial, ethnic, and gender differences in intermarriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 79, 301–317.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, K. (1941). Intermarriage in caste societies. American Anthropologist, 43, 376–395.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • de Graaf, P. M., & Kalmijn, M. (2003). Alternative routes in the remarriage market: Competing-risk analyses of union formation after divorce. Social Forces, 81, 1459–1498.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DiPrete, T. A., & Buchmann, C. (2013). The rise of women: The growing gender gap in education and what it means for American schools. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duncan, G. J., & Hoffman, S. D. (1985). A reconsideration of the economic consequences of marital dissolution. Demography, 22, 485–497.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • England, P., & Farkas, G. (1986). Households, employment, and gender: A social, economic, and demographic view. New York, NY: Aldine Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fu, V. K. (2010). Remarriage, delayed marriage, and black/white intermarriage, 1968–1995. Population Research and Policy Review, 29, 687–713.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gelissen, J. (2004). Assortative mating after divorce: A test of two competing hypotheses using marginal models. Social Science Research, 33, 361–384.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gerson, K. (2011). The unfinished revolution: How a new generation is reshaping family, work, and gender in America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldin, C. (2006). The quiet revolution that transformed women’s employment, education, and family. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 96, 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldscheider, F., Kaufman, G., & Sassler, S. (2009). Navigating the “new” market: How attitudes towards partner characteristics shape union formation. Journal of Family Issues, 30, 719–737.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldscheider, F., & Sassler, S. (2006). Creating stepfamilies: Integrating children into the study of union formation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 275–291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graefe, D. R., & Lichter, D. T. (2007). When unwed mothers marry: The marital and cohabiting partners of midlife women. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 595–622.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Greenwood, J., Guner, N., Kocharkov, G., & Santos, C. (2014). Marry your like: Assortative mating and income inequality. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 104, 348–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gullickson, A. (2006). Education and black-white interracial marriage. Demography, 43, 673–689.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gullickson, A., & Fu, V. K. (2010). Comment: An endorsement of exchange theory in mate selection. American Journal of Sociology, 115, 1243–1251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gullickson, A., & Torche, F. (2014). Patterns of racial and educational assortative mating in Brazil. Demography, 51, 835–856.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harknett, K., & McLanahan, S. S. (2004). Racial and ethnic differences in marriage after the birth of a child. American Sociological Review, 69, 790–811.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobs, J. A., & Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (1986). Changing places: Conjugal careers and women’s marital mobility. Social Forces, 64, 714–732.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jepsen, L. K., & Jepsen, C. A. (2002). An empirical analysis of the matching patterns of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Demography, 39, 435–453.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kalmijn, M. (2010). Educational inequality, homogamy, and status exchange in black-white intermarriage: A comment on Rosenfeld. American Journal of Sociology, 115, 1252–1263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kreider, R. M., & Ellis, R. (2011). Living arrangements of children: 2009 (Current Population Reports No. P70-126). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.

  • Kuo, J. C., & Raley, R. K. (2016). Diverging patterns of union transition among cohabitors by race/ethnicity and education: Trends and marital intentions in the United States. Demography, 53, 921–935.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lehrer, E. L. (1998). Religious intermarriage in the United States: Determinants and trends. Social Science Research, 27, 245–263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lichter, D. T., Michelmore, K., Turner, R. N., & Sassler, S. (2016). Pathways to a stable union? Pregnancy and childbearing among cohabiting and married couples. Population Research and Policy Review, 35, 377–399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lichter, D. T., Qian, Z., & Mellott, L. M. (2006). Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women. Demography, 43, 223–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lichter, D. T., Qian, Z., & Tumin, D. (2015). Whom do immigrants marry? Emerging patterns of intermarriage and integration in the United States. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 662, 57–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Livingston, G. (2015). Childlessness falls, family size grows among highly educated women (Report). Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mare, R. D. (1991). Five decades of educational assortative mating. American Sociological Review, 56, 15–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McFadden, D. (1973). Conditional logit analysis of qualitative choice behavior. In P. Zarembka (Ed.), Frontiers in econometrics (pp. 105–142). New York, NY: Academic Press.

  • Merton, R. K. (1941). Intermarriage and the social structure: Fact and theory. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 4, 361–374.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nielsen, H. S., & Svarer, M. (2009). Educational homogamy: How much is opportunities? Journal of Human Resources, 44, 1066–1086.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oppenheimer, V. K. (1988). A theory of marriage timing. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 563–591.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oppenheimer, V. K. (1997). Women’s employment and the gain to marriage: The specialization and trading model. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 431–453.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qian, Z., & Lichter, D. T. (2007). Social boundaries and marital assimilation: Interpreting trends in racial and ethnic intermarriage. American Sociological Review, 72, 68–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qian, Z., & Lichter, D. T. (2011). Changing patterns of interracial marriage in a multiracial society. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 1065–1084.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qian, Z., Lichter, D. T., & Tumin, D. (2018). Divergent pathways to assimilation? Local marriage markets and intermarriage among U.S. Hispanics. Journal of Marriage and Family, 80, 271–288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qian, Z., & Preston, S. H. (1993). Changes in American marriage, 1972 to 1987: Availability and forces of attraction by age and education. American Sociological Review, 58, 482–495.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quillian, L. (2015). A comparison of traditional and discrete choice approaches to the analysis of residential mobility and locational attainment. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 660, 240–260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenfeld, M. J. (2005). A critique of exchange theory in mate selection. American Journal of Sociology, 110, 1284–1325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenfeld, M. J. (2008). Racial, educational, and religious endogamy in the United States: A comparative historical perspective. Social Forces, 87, 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, C. R. (2010). Earnings inequality and the changing association between spouses’ earnings. American Journal of Sociology, 115, 1524–1557.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, C. R. (2013). Trends and variation in assortative mating: Causes and consequences. Annual Review of Sociology, 39, 1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, C. R., & Mare, R. D. (2005). Trends in educational assortative marriage from 1940 to 2003. Demography, 42, 621–646.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, C. R., Zeng, Z., & Xie, Y. (2016). Marrying up by marrying down: Status exchange between social origin and education in the United States. Sociological Science, 3, 1003–1027.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shafer, K. (2013). Unique matching patterns in remarriage: Educational assortative mating among divorced men and women. Journal of Family Issues, 34, 1500–1535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shafer, K., & James, S. L. (2013). Gender and socioeconomic status differences in first and second marriage formation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75, 544–564.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shafer, K., & Qian, Z. (2010). Marriage timing and educational assortative mating. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 41, 661–691.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sherkat, D. E. (2004). Religious intermarriage in the United States: Trends, patterns, and predictors. Social Science Research, 33, 600–625.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stewart, S. D., Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2003). Union formation among men in the U.S.: Does having prior children matter? Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 90–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sweeney, M. M. (1997). Remarriage of women and men after divorce: The role of socioeconomic prospects. Journal of Family Issues, 18, 479–502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sweeney, M. M. (2010). Remarriage and stepfamilies: Strategic sites for family scholarship in the 21st century. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 667–684.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Torche, F., & Rich, P. (2017). Declining racial stratification in marriage choices? Trends in black/white status exchange in the United States, 1980 to 2010. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 3, 31–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • U. S. Census Bureau. (2010). Statistical abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vera, H., Berardo, D. H., & Berardo, F. M. (1985). Age heterogamy in marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 553–556.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Waite, L. J., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage: Why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. New York, NY: Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, K., & Umberson, D. (2004). Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45, 81–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This article was supported in part by center grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH) to Brown University (P2C HD041020) and Cornell University. We thank Dmitry Tumin and Yue Qian for research assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhenchao Qian.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Qian, Z., Lichter, D.T. Marriage Markets and Intermarriage: Exchange in First Marriages and Remarriages. Demography 55, 849–875 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0671-x

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0671-x

Keywords

  • Remarriage
  • Assortative mating
  • Intermarriage
  • Homogamy
  • Marriage markets