Educational Homogamy and Inter-Couple Income Inequality: Linking Demographic and Socio-Economic Consequences of Educational Expansion in Germany and Switzerland

Ramsey Wise 1  and Christoph Zangger 2
  • 1 University of Bremen, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS), D-28334, Bremen
  • 2 University of Bern, Department of Sociology of Education, CH-3012, Bern


How is educational expansion associated with increased educational homogamy and income inequality? Using SOEP and SHP panel data, we randomly match couples and compare the resulting income distribution to the observed one. Educational homogamy thereby has had only a marginal impact on earnings-based income inequality between couples, which is largely due to the endogenous decision-making of couples concerning working time.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Aslaksen, Iulie, Tom Wennemo, and Rolf Aaberge. 2005. “Birds of a Feather Flock Together”: The Impact of Choice of Spouse on Family Labor Income Inequality. Labour 19(3): 491–515.

  • Becker, Gary S. 1981. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Becker, Gary S. 1964. Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, With Special Reference to Education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Becker, Rolf and Christoph Zangger. 2013. Die Bildungsexpansion in der Schweiz und ihre Folgen. KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 65(3): 423–449.

  • Bell, Andrew and Kelvyn Jones. 2014. Another “Futile Quest”? A Simulation Study of Yang and Land’s Hierarchical Age-Period-Cohort Model. Demographic Research 30: 333–360.

  • Blossfeld, Hans-Peter, Sandra Buchholz, Erzsébet Bukodi, and Karin Kurz. 2008. Young Workers, Globalization and the Labor Market: Comparing Early Working Life in Eleven Countries. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

  • Blossfeld, Hans-Peter and Sonja Drobnič (eds.). 2001. Careers of Couples in Contemporary Society: From Male Breadwinner to Dual-Earner Families. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Blossfeld, Hans-Peter and Catherine Hakim (eds.). 1997. Between Equalization and Marginalization: Women Working Part-Time in Europe and the United States of America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Blossfeld, Hans-Peter and Heather Hofmeister (eds.). 2006. Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Careers in International Comparison. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

  • Blossfeld, Hans-Peter and Andreas Timm (eds.). 2003. Who Marries Whom? Educational Systems as Marriage Markets in Modern Societies. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  • Breen, Richard and Signe H. Andersen. 2012. Educational Assortative Mating and Income Inequality in Denmark. Demography 49(3): 867–887.

  • Breen, Richard, Ruud Luijkx, Walter Muller, and Reinhard Pollak. 2010. Long-Term Trends in Educational Inequality in Europe: Class Inequalities and Gender Differences. European Sociological Review 26(1): 31–48.

  • Breen, Richard and Leire Salazar. 2011. Educational Assortative Mating and Income inequality in the United States. American Journal of Sociology 117(3): 808–843.

  • Breen, Richard and Leire Salazar. 2010. Has Increased Womens Educational Attainment Led to Greater Income Inequality in the United Kingdom: A Multivariate Decomposition Analysis. European Sociological Review 26(2): 143–157.

  • Cancian, Maria and Deborah Reed. 1999. The Impact of Wives’ Earnings on Income Inequality: Issues and Estimates. Demography 36(2): 173–184.

  • Creedy, John and Guyonne Kalb. 2005. Discrete Hours Labour Supply Modelling: Specification, Estimation and Simulation. Journal of Economic Surveys 19(5): 697–734.

  • Crouch, Colin, David Finegold, and Mari Sako. 2001. Are Skills the Answer: The Political Economy of Skill Creation in Advanced Industrial Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Daly, Mary and Kirsten Scheiwe. 2010. Individualisation and Personal Obligations – Social Policy, Family Policy, and Law Reform in Germany and the UK. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 24(2): 177–197.

  • Dribe, Martin and Paul Nystedt. 2013. Educational Homogamy and Gender-Specific Earnings: Sweden, 1990–2009. Demography 50(4): 1197–1216.

  • Drobnič, Sonja and Hans-Peter Blossfeld. 2004. Career Patterns Over the Life Course: Gender, Class, and Linked Lives. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 21(4): 139–164.

  • Elder, Glen H. 1994. Time, Agency, and Social Change: Perspectives on the Life Course. Social Psychology Quarterly 57(1): 4–15.

  • Esping-Andersen, Goesta. 2007. Sociological Explanations of Changing Income Distributions. American Behavioral Scientist 50(5): 639–658.

  • Fienberg, Stephen E. and William M. Mason. 1979. Identification and Estimation of Age-Period-Cohort Models in the Analysis of Discrete Archival Data. Sociological Methodology 10:1–67.

  • Giesselmann, Marco and Henning Lohmann. 2008. The Different Roles of Low-Wage Work in Germany: Regional, Demographical and Temporal Variances in the Poverty Risk of Low-Paid Workers. Pp. 96–123 in The Working Poor in Europe: Employment, Poverty and Globalisation, edited by Hans-Jürgen Andress and Henning Lohman. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

  • Glenn, Norval D. 1976. Cohort Analysts’ Futile Quest: Statistical Attempts to Separate Age, Period and Cohort Effects. American Sociological Review 41(5): 900–904.

  • Gottschalk, Peter, and Sheldon Danziger. 2005. Inequality of Wage Rates, Earnings and Family Income in the United States, 1975–2002. Review of Income and Wealth 51(2): 231–254.

  • Gottschalk, Peter and Timothy M. Smeeding. 1997. Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality. Journal of Economic Literature 35(2): 633–687.

  • Grabka, Markus M and Ursina Kuhn. 2012. The Evolution of Income Inequality in Germany and Switzerland Since the Turn of the Millennium. SOEPpapers No. 464. Berlin.

  • Haasler, Simone R. and Karin Gottschall. 2015. Still a Perfect Model? The Gender Impact of Vocational Training in Germany. Journal of Vocational Education & Training 67(1): 78–92.

  • Hadjar, Andreas and Rolf Becker (eds.). 2009. Expected and Unexpected Consequences of the Educational Expansion in Europe and the US: Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Findings in Comparative Perspective. Bern: Haupt.

  • Harkness, Susan. 2013. Women’s Employment and Household Income Inequality. Pp. 207–233 in Income Inequality: Economic Disparities and the Middle Class in Affluent Countries, edited by Janet C. Gornick and Markus Jäntti. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  • Heckman, James J. 1979. Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error. Econometrica 47(1): 153–161.

  • Hryshko, Dmytro, Chinhui Juhn, and Kristin McCue. 2015. Trends in Income inequality and Earnings Instability Among US Couples: How Important Is Assortative Matching? US Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies Paper No. CES-WP-15–04.

  • Jann, Ben. 2016. Estimating Lorenz and Concentration Curves. The Stata Journal 16(4): 837–866.

  • Juhn, Chinhui and Kevin M. Murphy. 1997. Wage Inequality and Family Labor Supply. Journal of Labor Economics 15(1): 72–97.

  • Kalmijn, Matthijs. 1998. Intermarriage and Homogamy: Causes, Patterns, Trends. Annual Review of Sociology 24: 395–421.

  • Keck, W. and C. Saraceno. 2013. The Impact of Different Social-Policy Frameworks on Social Inequalities Among Women in the European Union: The Labour-Market Participation of Mothers. Social Politics 20(3): 297–328.

  • Kollmeyer, Christopher. 2013. Family Structure, Female Employment, and National Income Inequality: A Cross-National Study of 16 Western Countries. European Sociological Review 29(4): 816–827.

  • Levy, René, Felix Bühlmann, and Eric Widmer. 2007. Dual and Single Career Couples in Switzerland: Exploring Partners’ Trajectories. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung 19(3): 263–289.

  • Lewis, Susan K. and Valerie K. Oppenheimer. 2000. Educational Assortative Mating Across Marriage Markets: Non-Hispanic Whites in the United States. Demography 37(1): 29–40.

  • Lichter, Daniel T., Robert N. Anderson, and Mark D. Hayward. 1995. Marriage Markets and Marital Choice. Journal of Family Issues 16(4): 412–431.

  • Mandel, Hadas and Moshe Semyonov. 2005. Family Policies, Wage Structures, and Gender Gaps: Sources of Income Inequality in 20 Countries. American Sociological Review 70(6): 949–967.

  • Mare, Robert D. 1991. Five Decades of Educational Assortative Mating. American Sociological Review 56(1): 15–32.

  • Peichl, Andreas, Nico Pestel, and Hilmar Schneider. 2012. Does Size Matter? The Impact of Changes in Household Structure on Income Distribution in Germany. Review of Income and Wealth 58(1): 118–141.

  • Pestel, Nico. 2015. Marital Sorting, Inequality and the Role of Female Labor Supply: Evidence From East and West Germany. ZEW Discussion Papers No. 47. Mannheim.

  • Pfau-Effinger, Birgit. 2012. Women’s Employment in the Institutional and Cultural Context. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 32(9): 530–543.

  • Schwartz, Christine R. 2013. Trends and Variation in Assortative Mating: Causes and Consequences. Annual Review of Sociology 39: 451–70.

  • Schwartz, Christine R. 2010. Income Inequality and the Changing Association Between Spouses’ Earnings. American Journal of Sociology 115(5): 1–30.

  • Schwartz, Christine R. and Robert D Mare. 2005. Trends in Educational Assortative Marriage From 1940 to 2003. Demography 42(4): 621–646.

  • Smyth, Emer and Stephanie Steinmetz. 2008. Field of Study and Gender Segregation in European Labour Markets. International Journal of Behavioral Development 49(4–5): 257–281.

  • Spitzenpfeil, Martin and Hans-Jürgen Andress. 2014. Ist der Anstieg der Westdeutschen Einkommensungleichheit auf die Zunahme bildungshomogener Partnerschaften zurückführbar? Eine Dekompositionsanalyse auf Basis des SOEP (1985–2011). Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 66(4): 575–601.

  • van der Lippe, Tanja and Liset van Dijk. 2002. Comparative Research on Women’s Employment. Annual Review of Sociology 28: 221–241.

  • van der Lippe, Tanja and Liset van Dijk (eds.). 2001. Women’s Employment in a Comparative Perspective. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

  • Waldfogel, Jane. 1997. The Effect of Children on Women’s Wages. American Sociological Review 62 (2): 209–217.

  • Western, Bruce, Deirdre Bloome, and Christine Percheski. 2008. Inequality Among American Families With Children, 1975 to 2005. American Sociological Review 73(6): 903–920.


Journal + Issues