Is the Changing Assortative Mating Really Not Important for Understanding the Rising Earnings Homogamy in The United States?

Banner_CASER Research Workshop Series_YIFAN SHEN


With the rising female labor force participation, more and more couples in the United States consist of two partners who are either both high earners or both low earners — also known as “earnings homogamy”. The growing earnings homogamy intensified the earnings inequality among married-couple families. Earnings homogamy may increase through two mechanisms: changes in assortative mating and changes in the division of paid labor after marriage. In this talk, I present new evidence that challenges three popular opinions in the literature. First, most studies argued that changes in assortative mating are the not main reason why earnings homogamy increased. I argue that the changing assortative mating is a critical driver of the increasing earnings homogamy. Second, recent studies argued that assortative mating by earnings has not changed much in the U.S. I provide new evidence showing that earnings assortative mating has changed significantly and the changing trajectory is not linear. Third, prior research argues that the rise of women’s employment is the only important driver of the growing earnings homogamy. I argue that changes in low-skilled men’s labor market position are also important.


Yifan Shen is an incoming Assistant Professor at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in the Division of Social Sciences. He obtained his PhD in Sociology from Brown University. His research areas include family demography, income inequality, education, and life course. His work has appeared in Demography and American Journal of Sociology.

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