Preferences vs. Opportunities: Racial/Ethnic Intermarriage in the United States

This paper develops and implements a new approach for separately identifying preference and opportunity parameters of a two-sided search and matching model in the absence of data on choice sets. This approach exploits information on the dynamics of matches: how long it takes for singles to form matches, what types of matches they form, and how long the matches last. Willingness to accept a certain type of partner can be revealed through the dissolution of matches. Given recovered acceptance rules, the rates at which singles meet different types are inferred from the observed transitions from singlehood to matches. Imposing equilibrium conditions links acceptance rules and arrival rates to underlying preference and opportunity parameters. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I apply this method to examine the marriage patterns of non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics in the United States. Results indicate that the observed infrequency of intermarriage is primarily attributable to a low incidence of interracial/interethnic meetings rather than same-race/ethnicity preferences. Simulations based on the estimated model show the effects of demographic changes on marital patterns.

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