Discussion paper

DP17148 Assortative Mating and Wealth Inequality

We use population data on capital income and wealth holdings for Norway to measure
asset positions and wealth returns before individuals marry and after the household is
formed. These data allow us to establish a number of novel facts. First, individuals sort
on personal wealth rather than parents’ wealth. Assortative mating on own wealth
dominates, and in fact renders assortative mating on parental wealth statistically
insignificant. Second, people match also on their personal returns to wealth and
assortative mating on returns is as strong as that on wealth. Third, post-marriage
returns on family wealth are largely explained by the return of the spouse with the
highest pre-marriage return. This suggests that family wealth is largely managed by
the spouse with the highest potential to grow it. This is particularly true for households
at the top of the wealth distribution at marriage. We use a simple analytical example to
illustrate how assortative mating on wealth and returns and wealth management task
allocation between spouses affect wealth inequality.


Fagereng, A, L Guiso and L Pistaferri (2022), ‘DP17148 Assortative Mating and Wealth Inequality‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17148. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17148