Cohort Size and the Marriage Market: Explaining Nearly a Century of Changes in U.S. Marriage Rates

A PSC Brown Bag Seminar

Maurizio Mazzocco (UCLA, Department of Economics)

Monday, 3/16/2015.   ARCHIVED EVENT

Location: 6050 ISR Thompson St

We propose an explanation for almost a century of changes in U.S. marriage rates, in three stages. First, we show that changes in cohort size alone can account for around 50 to 70% of the variation in marriage rates since the 1930s for both black and white populations. Specifically, increases in cohort size reduce marriage rates, whereas declines in cohort size have the opposite effect. We provide the most convincing evidence on this relationship by using variation in cohort size due to differences across states in sale bans on oral contraceptives. Using this exogenous variation in access to oral contraceptives, and consequently the number of births, we provide evidence that the relationship between changes in cohort size and changes in marriage rates is causal. Next, we develop a dynamic search model of the marriage market that qualitatively generates this observed relationship, and derive a testable implication about cohort size's effect on spouses' age differences. Finally, we estimate the model and investigate its consistency with the data. We fail to reject it using the derived implication, and find that it can quantitatively explain much of the observed variation in marriage rates.

PSC Brown Bag seminars highlight recent research in population studies and serve as a focal point for building our research community.

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