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Working Paper No. 10-02

Does Prospective Migration Increase Marital Instability?
Evidence from Census 1980-2000 and NLSY79

Ying Li
October 2010; revised January 2011


This paper tests the hypothesis suggested by Mincer (1978) that prospective migration can give rise to marital instability. I use occupation mobility as a proxy for the uncertainty concerning future migration. Occupation mobility is the probability of having to migrate within the same occupation, measured by the fraction of workers in an occupation who have moved across state lines in the past five years using Census data. If future optimal locations are not known with certainty before marriage, workers in occupations with higher mobility have a greater chance of facing conflicts on likely relocation with their spouses. I find some supportive evidence when using data from the single round of Census 2000. However, estimation results in general do not support the hypothesis that prospective migration may lead to family dissolution, when data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 are used. Instead, rational expectation is offered as a potential explanation of these findings.

JEL classification: J11, J12
Keywords: Prospective Migration; Occupation mobility; Marital Instability