College as a Marriage Market

46 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2021

See all articles by Lars J. Kirkebøen

Lars J. Kirkebøen

Statistics Norway - Research Department

Edwin Leuven

University of Oslo - Department of Economics

Magne Mogstad

University of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 21, 2021


Recent descriptive work suggests the type of college education (field or institution) is an important but neglected pathway through which individuals sort into homogeneous marriages. These descriptive studies raise the question of why college graduates are so likely to marry someone within their own institution or field of study. One possible explanation is that individuals match on traits correlated with the choice of education, such as innate ability, tastes or family environment. Another possible explanation is that the choice of college education causally impacts whether and whom one marries, either because of search frictions or preferences for spousal education. The goal of this paper is to sort out these explanations and, by doing so, examine the role of colleges as marriage markets. Using data from Norway to address key identification and measurement challenges, we find that colleges are local marriage markets, mattering greatly for whom one marries, not because of the pre-determined traits of the admitted students but as a direct result of attending a particular institution at a given time.

JEL Classification: D13,I23,I24,J12

Suggested Citation

Kirkebøen, Lars J. and Leuven, Edwin and Mogstad, Magne, College as a Marriage Market (April 21, 2021). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-50, Available at SSRN: or

Lars J. Kirkebøen

Statistics Norway - Research Department ( email )

Kongens Gt. 6
PO Box 8131 Dep
N-0033 Oslo

Edwin Leuven

University of Oslo - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 1095 Blindern
N-0317 Oslo

Magne Mogstad (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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