Title: There’s More to Marriage than Love: The Effect of Legal Status and Cultural Distance on Intermarriages and Separations

Abstract:

This paper analyses the marriage decisions of natives and migrants focusing on the role of legal status and cultural distance. We exploit the successive enlargements of the European Union as a natural experiment that granted legal status only to some groups of foreign immigrants. Using Italian administrative data on the universe of mar- riages and separations, we show that access to legal status reduces by 60 percent the probability of immigrants intermarrying with natives, and it increases by 20 percent the hazard rate of separation for mixed couples formed before legal status acquisition. Building on this evidence, we develop and structurally estimate a multidimensional equilibrium model of marriage and separation, where individuals match on observed and unobserved characteristics. Allowing for trade-offs between cultural distance, legal status, and other socio-economic spousal characteristics, we quantify the role of legal status and the strength of cultural affinity. Through the evaluation of counterfactual policies, we show that granting legal status to migrants to foster their inclusion in the legal labor market paradoxically slows down the integration of minorities along cultural lines. We also show how recent migration waves will foster a gender marital imbalance within those communities.