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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays on marriage and labor market matching Alonzo, Davide


Matching processes are at the heart of many economic interactions: in the labor market workers match with occupations; migration is a form of geographic matching; singles match in marriage markets to form households. Matching processes are the common theme across the three essays composing this thesis. The first two essays study the joint determination of migration and marriage of households. They examine the effects of geographic heterogeneity in occupational returns on marriage and divorce, and the impact of family formation on the geographic allocation of labor. The first essay documents that geographically mismatched workers -- those living in a location that pays relatively lower wages in their occupation -- are less likely to marry and more likely to divorce. Moreover, conditional on marrying, mismatched workers are more likely to be married to similarly mismatched partners. To account for these observations, in the second essay, we develop an equilibrium model of migration and family formation, and we estimate it using microdata for the US. Through counterfactual experiments, we assess the implications of joint marriage and location choices. We find that, while at the individual level entering a marriage reduces wage growth, in aggregate the presence of marriage markets and the endogeneity of marriage market conditions enhance productivity by attracting workers to high return locations. In the third essay we characterize the distribution of worker-job surplus in the U.S. economy for different decades, and document extensive heterogeneity in the pecuniary and non-pecuniary rewards that workers derive from similar jobs. This heterogeneity is associated with compensating differentials, especially in non-college occupations and among women in college-level jobs. Estimates of worker-job match values are employed to recover technology parameters such as the productivity of different occupation-demographic matches and the substitutability of broad occupation groups in production. We use the latter to quantify the extent to which technological progress, as opposed to shifts in the heterogeneous valuations of jobs, accounts for structural change in the labor market. We find that, while employment patterns are the by-product of changes in both technology and preferences, the evolution of wages can almost entirely be explained by technological progress.

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