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Preferences and Choice Constraints in Marital Sorting: Evidence From Korea

Jan 2008
Working Paper
07-042
By  Soohyung Lee
Marital sorting along education, income and other salient dimensions is well-documented for many countries. Understanding the mechanisms behind such sorting is important because the degree of marital sorting may influence income inequality, intergenerational mobility, and household labor supply, as well as other economic outcomes. Marital sorting is often thought to arise from some combination of people’s preferences and constraints on their choice sets. However, separating these two causes of marital sorting is difficult because typical data sets provide information on either a person’s spouse or a person’s dating partners, but not both. This paper circumvents this difficulty by using a novel data set from a major Korean matchmaking company which contains both types of information. The paper analyzes gender specific marital preferences by estimating a marriage model. Using the estimated model, I find that constraints on people’s choice sets may account for a substantial fraction of observed sorting along education and industry in the general population. The recent development of new search technologies, such as online dating services, alleviates these constraints and thus may reduce marital sorting along these dimensions. I also find evidence that changing individual-level income inequality has a very limited impact on marital sorting, implying that such changes are unlikely to be amplified at the household-level by endogenous marital sorting.