Partner selection in marriage and re-marriage

November 8, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – Nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. now include previously married individuals. Yet, previously married individuals often face demographic shortages in the supply of potential partners. As a result, “they, especially women, have lower opportunities for marriage and those who remarry often ‘cast a wider net,’” says new research by PSTC Associate Director Zhenchao Qian, professor of sociology.

Qian and his co-author use data from the American Community Survey to compare marriage patterns in first marriages, remarriages, and mixed-order marriages. They find that previously married individuals are generally more likely to marry spouses with different traits than never married individuals.

While marriage is usually formed on the “basis of shared social, demographic, and economic characteristics,” some of these traits are often exchanged in re-marriage, particularly when previously married persons seek partners who have never been married. For example, never-married persons are not only most likely to marry other never-married persons but also are better able to exchange their status (as never-marrieds) for partners with higher socioeconomic status drawn from the previously married population. Thus, “never-married persons are better positioned than previously married persons to marry more attractive marital partners, variously measured,” the authors say.

They also find that finding a mate has become more complex and more challenging, especially for previously married women, because of demographic shortages, child custody arrangements, and persistent gender inequality in income.

Read more here.