Choosing a Spouse in the United States

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Choosing a Spouse in the United States
Michael J Bergloff, Alex Bothe and Ross Barry 5/10/2012

The objective through this research is to further understand how certain individual preferences influence the marriage process. Current and archived literature was examined on the topic of marriage matching tendencies in which lead to the development of a unique framework to evaluate the preferences of males and females. Several preferences were tested, which included income, education and age, to determine the effectiveness of the framework provided. These tests were constructed using regression techniques and empirical data from the American Community Survey to see if a positive correlation exists between the three independent variables and mate selection at the time of marriage. The results from the regression models of income, education and age reveal that these preferences play a predominant part of choosing a soul mate, further indicating that people seek a marital partner with characteristics similar to their own.

I. Introduction Over the past several decades, there has been an increased discussion and study in social issues among economists (Becker 1973). One of the most prominent topics that has been studied and continues to be researched is the issue of marriage. For many Americans, deciding to marry and who to marry to are often considered the most important choices an individual can make. Furthermore, social scientists are particularly interested in the mating process as it can provide a unique insight on the characteristics of household demographics. The primary purpose of this paper will be examining how marriages are formed and which individual preferences influence spousal selection. A theoretical framework will be shown using the work provided by some of the most prominent academics whom have written on the topic of marriage. The framework will provide a mathematical approach displaying how males and females choose their marital partner from each other’s set of preferences. An econometric model will be proposed using empirical data from the American Community Survey, which will test the validity of the theory provided in this paper. Finally, the results from the model will show an emergence of a positively correlated pattern that is formed in married men’s and women’s income/salary, education and age. The results from this paper’s analysis may have profound implications and can be extremely useful for policy makers. This paper suggests that a positive correlation exists in individual’s income level at the approximate time of marriage and continues for the duration of the marriage. Individuals with lower income levels are getting married to other individuals with similar income levels and the same principle would hold true for people with higher income levels. Policy makers can use these results to determine the extent of the income inequality gap in the country.

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II. Literature Review A substantial amount of literature has been written about the topic of marriage. Since the early 1960s, a number of economic models and theories have been proposed to explain how and why marriage occurs. One of the earliest publications that explained the concept of marriage in a mathematical framework was David Gale and Lloyd Shapley’s article of “College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage”. In the article, Gale and Shapley proposed an algorithm that will always result in a stable match between a male and female based upon each other’s preferences. The Gale-Shapley algorithm explains that a male will rank his spousal choice from most preferred to least preferred and make marriage proposals in that order. On the other hand, the female must always accept a proposal from a male, but if she has more than one, she will reject all but her favorite suitor. Eventually, every female will receive a proposal, since a male cannot propose to the same female more than once and a female cannot have more than one fiancé (Gale...
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