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Segregation and Marriage (with Jamie Gracie and Sonya Porter)
Paper will be posted in November 2023
Americans rarely marry outside of their own race or class group. We use anonymized data covering nearly the entire U.S. population to study the sources of marital homophily by parental income, or “class,” and race, focusing on white-Black marriage. We distinguish between two explanations for marital homophily: a lack of exposure to people of different backgrounds versus a preference to marry within group. Despite similar levels of marital homophily by race and class, homophily by class is driven largely by residential segregation, whereas racial homophily is not. We analyze the role of residential segregation in partial equilibrium with an instrument for exposure based on race- and class-specific sex ratios in childhood neighborhoods. Increased exposure to opposite-sex members of other class groups leads to a substantial increase in interclass marriage, but increased exposure to other race groups has no detectable impact on white-Black interracial marriage. To quantify the impact of specific desegregation policies in general equilibrium, we develop and estimate a spatial model of the marriage market. Policies that reduce residential segregation can have large effects on interclass marriage with implications for the dynamics of income across generations.