Assortative Mating Among Married New Legal Immigrants to the United States

Evidence from the New Immigrant Survey Pilot

Published in: International Migration Review, v. 34, no. 2, Summer 2000, p. 443-459

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Guillermina Jasso, Douglas S. Massey, Mark R. Rosenzweig, James P. Smith

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This article provides a brief summary of the Pilot for the New Immigrant Survey (NIS) and presents new information, never before available, on one important aspect of immigrant behavior - assortative mating. The authors' intent is to provide a flavor for the kinds of questions that can be studied with this new data base and with the larger-sample full New Immigrant Survey by presenting new information on married couples who are part of immigration flows and whose characteristics are importantly shaped by immigration law. They distinguish between two types of couples, those in which one spouse is a U.S. citizen sponsor and those in which both spouses are immigrants. Their findings include the following: First, among married couples formed by a U.S. citizen sponsoring the immigration of a spouse, husbands and wives have similar levels of schooling, with the U.S. citizen slightly better educated than the immigrant spouse; however, U.S. citizen husbands and their immigrant wives have substantially higher schooling than U.S. citizen wives and their immigrant husbands (on average, two years higher). Second, unlike immigrants from other countries, Mexico-born spouses of U.S. citizens differ markedly in schooling depending on whether they are recently married, suggesting the continuing after-effects of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Third, husband-wife schooling levels are less similar among married couples in which both spouses are immigrants than among couples involving a U.S. citizen sponsor and an immigrant spouse, except when the wife is the principal in an employment category. These findings suggest that immigration laws importantly shape the characteristics of families and thus the next generation - the children of immigrants and immigrant children.

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