Assortative Mating and Wealth Inequalities between and within Households

Philipp Lersch, University of Cologne
Reinhard Schunck, GESIS

Positive assortative mating may be one cause of wealth inequalities, but this relationship has not been examined in previous research. In the current study we investigate assortative mating and wealth inequality within and between households in Germany. We draw on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP; N=1,725 couples). We examine both partners’ personal wealth in newly-formed couples and compare the observed wealth distribution to counterfactual scenarios. We find that the bivariate correlation in personal wealth between both partners is about 0.21. Partners positively match on wealth beyond their assortative mating on age, education and income. We find that the Gini coefficient for between-household wealth inequality would be about 5 percent lower in the absence of positive assortative mating. We find that about 43 percent of overall wealth inequality is within households. The within-household gender gap in personal wealth would be about twice as large and negative under random matching for women at the bottom of the female wealth distribution. However, we find that women would have a substantial wealth advantage under random matching at the top of the female wealth distribution.

Presented in Session 102: Families and Social Stratification