Opportunity and change in occupational assortative mating. By: Schwartz, Christine R.; Wang, Yu; Mare, Robert D. Social Science Research. Sep2021, Vol. 99, pN.PAG-N.PAG. 1p.

This article documents how opportunity and change in the U.S. occupational structure shaped patterns of occupational assortative mating between 1970 and 2015–2017. Trends in occupational assortative mating have often been cited as potentially contributing to the rise in economic inequality—the idea that doctors increasingly marry doctors instead of nurses—thereby exacerbating the concentration of resources among advantaged households. Previous estimates of trends in occupational assortative mating are now decades old and their impact on household inequality has not been quantified. Our results show large-scale change. The prevalence of dual-professional couples nearly tripled between 1970 and 2015–2017. Changes were especially large among particular occupational combinations. For instance, male doctors have become increasingly likely to be married to female doctors, and male lawyers to female lawyers. Almost all of the changes in occupational assortative mating patterns, however, are accounted for by changes in the distributions of spouses’ occupations, for example, the rise of women in professional occupations. Because of this, the contribution of occupational assortative mating to the rise in economic inequality has been small. In the absence of any association between spouses’ occupations, observed increases in household earnings inequality would have been reduced by 5%. Although this is a small portion of overall changes in inequality, it is much larger than prior estimates of the effects of educational assortative mating on inequality, which recent studies have estimated to be essentially zero.