The Dynamics of Assortative Mating and the Survivorship of Marriages

Arun S. Hendi, University of Pennsylvania

This article examines how the intensification of assortative mating in the last half-century has patterned changes in the survivorship experience of older married couples. Using data from the 1992-2010 Health and Retirement Study with mortality follow-up through 2011, the author calculates trends in the probability of widowhood over time and across cohorts, and generates counterfactual estimates of how those trends would change if the intensity of assortative mating hadn't changed over time. The study also introduces a new formal demographic model linking the dynamics of marriage processes with changes in the joint distribution of spouses' characteristics, including age at marriage, education, and smoking status.

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Presented in Session 199: Family Transitions in Later Life