Two-Sided Estimation of Mate Preferences for Similarities in Age, Education, and Religion

John Allen Logan, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Peter D. Hoff, University of Washington
Michael A. Newton, University of Wisconsin at Madison

We propose a two-sided method to simultaneously estimate men's and women's preferences for characteristics of potential mates using cross-sectional data on married and single persons. Mean preference coefficients determine the average degree to which measured characteristics of individuals affect others' evaluations of them as marital partners. The model also accounts for variation of preferences around the means and for limitations in information about members of the opposite sex. Fixed effects are used to control for characteristics not present in our data that may be observed by the opposite sex. By assuming voluntary matching, we estimate preferences without having to specify details of the matching process, making our method robust to unknown features of the process. We apply the method to data from the first wave of the National Survey of Families and Households to estimate men's and women's preferences for relative age, education and religious affiliation characteristics of potential mates.

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Presented in Session 39: Advances in Methodology