Would You Marry Paris Hilton or Oprah Winfrey? The Role of Inheritance and Labor Income in Marital Choices

Nicolas Frémeaux, Paris School of Economics

This paper investigates the relative importance of inheritance and labor income in marital choices. In France, there is clear evidence that people are sensitive to the source of wealth: heirs marry heiresses and top income men marry top income women. However, there are asymmetries in tastes. Assortative mating is higher along the inheritance dimension than along the labor income dimension. Top labor income women prefer top labor income men whereas the latter are indifferent between top heiresses and top labor income women. I discuss three explanations: the role of areas of socialization, marital instability, and the symbolic power of inheritance. These new results are crucial to deeply understand the dynamics of inequalities and more especially the consequences of the long-run evolution of inheritance as a fraction of aggregate wealth.

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Presented in Session 192: Assortative Mating in Developed Countries