Immigration and Status Exchange in Australia and the United States

March 2012
With Kate Choi, Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, and Mathias Sinning

This paper evaluates the status exchange hypothesis for Australia and the United States, two Anglophone nations with long immigration traditions whose admission regimes place different emphases on skills. Using log-linear methods, we demonstrate that foreign-born spouses trade educational credentials via marriage with natives in both Australian and U.S. marriage markets and, moreover, that nativity is a more salient marriage barrier for men than for women. With some exceptions, immigrant spouses in mixed nativity couples are better educated than native spouses in same nativity couples, but status exchange is more prevalent among the less-educated spouses in both countries. Support for the status exchange hypothesis is somewhat weaker in Australia partly because of lower average levels of education compared with the United States and partly because of less sharply defined educational hierarchy at the postsecondary level.