Panel Paper: Marital Norms and Women's Education

Sunday, April 9, 2017 : 11:45 AM
HUB 260 (University of California, Riverside)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mayuri Chaturvedi, University of California, Irvine
In this paper, I explore the effect of the cultural norm of “marrying-up” on women’s education in the U.S. in the last century. I use US Census and ACS data from 1940-2010, and exploit the 1965 U.S. Immigration Act as a source of exogenous variation in the pool of skills among potential partners in the economy. I make the assumption that foreign-born women in the United States had access to their home country marriage markets both before and after the Act. Hence, only U.S. born women would be affected by the influx of high and low skilled individuals from the policy change in choosing their pre-marital investments in education. I find that graduation rates among women born in the U.S. increase relative to foreign-born women residing in the U.S. in response to the increase in the graduation rate among men. 

When looking at the effect within nationalities, low-skill exporting nationalities saw a reduction in their women's graduation rates by about 3%, whereas high-skill exporting nationalities saw an increase in their women's graduation rates by 8-10% relative to foreign-born women in the same nationalities in the U.S. The elasticity of the effect is larger for women who identify themselves with nationalities known to be more patriarchic according to the World Values Survey. 

To explain the above results I develop a model of pre-marital investments in education. In the model agents' utility is a function of labor market returns and marriage market returns to education. Due to society's preference that women marry up, the model explains that women experience lower utility from getting 'too much' education because of a lower probability of finding a preferred partner. When there are more highly educated men around, women respond by increasing their education. The model also predicts that high-skill women will be less affected by the change in men's education than low-skill women.