Back to Basics: Examining the Essence of Merton’s Status Exchange Theory Using Husband-Wife Education Differences

Danny Malone Jr, Texas A&M University

Most studies of racial intermarriage aiming to test Merton’s status exchange theory use education to determine the odds of intermarriage, but none have actually used intermarriage to predict the difference in education among intermarried spouses. This study examines the relationship between husband-wife education differences and intermarriage among U.S. blacks as a test of Merton’s status exchange theory. According to evidence from 2008-2010 IPUMS-ACS data, black husbands tend to engage in “status exchange” more than black wives when marrying across racial lines. Ordinary least squares regression was used to analyze the relationship with husband-wife education difference and intermarriage questioning if Merton’s status exchange theory is still relevant in the 21st century. Findings indicate the theory still may be useful because husband-wife education differences for black husbands are impacted by whether they are intermarried or not. For black wives, the picture is not as clear.

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 Presented in Session P8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, and Inequality/Gender, Race and Ethnicity