Birds of a Feather: Patterns, Heuristics, and Constraints of Cross-Boundary Marriage Sorting
AbstractI examine of the patterns, heuristics, and constraints of contemporary marriage sorting across various social boundaries and the resulting implications for understanding social openness and closure. Using a combination of regression models, in-depth interviews, and agent-based computational simulations, I focus on the interplays between individuals’ ascriptive and achieved characteristics, and the interplay between micro-level preferences and heuristics and meso-level constraints and preconditions in shaping macro-level marriage outcomes.
Chapter 2 investigates intermarriage patterns among six racial/ethnic groups in the contemporary United States. The results suggest that racial/ethnic intermarriage in the U.S. is characterized by status-caste exchange. Intermarriage patterns among the six racial/ethnic groups contradicts the theorization of the color line as a non-black/ black divide. Instead, the findings suggest that the contemporary U.S. color line is characterized by a form of “tri-racial hierarchy”, with whites and honorary whites at the top, followed by (collective) blacks, and certain Latino groups on the bottom.
Chapter 3 investigates marital sorting by education and hukou status in China from 1987 onward. Results point to a strong urban-rural differential in marriage desirability. Qualitative findings show that individuals of rural hukou are viewed as having distinct values, habitus, and cultural capital. Thus, even as rural-born individuals successfully cross the rural-urban gap through hukou conversion prior to marriage entry, their hukou origin acts as a lasting symbolic divide.
Chapter 4 investigates the interplay between micro-level heuristics and meso-level constraints in shaping macro-level inter-racial/ethnic mate search outcomes. The results show that under in-group preference, the simulated overall intermarriage rates most closely resemble the current empirical observations across local marriage markets. When a local marriage market is segregated, intermarriage rates are low initially, yet individuals’ mate searches serve as an integrating force. As sorting by education remains a powerful mechanism, a racially diverse yet educationally stratified population may not necessarily lead to greater boundary crossing through intermarriage.
Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, my dissertation contributes to the fields of social demography, race/ethnicity, gender, and family by highlighting the interplay between ascriptive and achieved characteristics in assortative mating, while focusing on both individuals’ preference and structural opportunities in the marriage sorting process.
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