We propose a new methodological framework for studying status exchange in marriage. As shown in recent debates on status-race or status-beauty exchange, the conventional loglinear modeling approach is prone to controversial specifications and alternative interpretations. In this study, we develop a simple method – the Exchange Index – with cohort-and-gender-specific relative status measures, statistical distribution balancing, and nonparametric matching. While allowing for multiple covariate controls, our Exchange Index measures the average difference in spouse’s status between intermarriages and matched ingroup marriages. To demonstrate the new framework, we use two analytical examples of status-race and status-age exchange, based on the IPUMS 2000 US Census 5% microdata sample. To verify our new method, we also conduct replication and simulation studies. Our approach reduces model dependency, improves flexibility to account for confounders, allows for examination of heterogeneous patterns, speaks to fundamental concepts in status exchange theory, and takes advantage of increasingly available large-scale microdata.
Taking advantage of changes in college admissions and the labor market in post-revolution China, this study sheds light on the institutional conditions under which a college degree may “equalize” the influence of family educational background on labor market outcomes. We examine differences in the first job’s occupational attainment and economic returns between first-generation, second-generation, and non-college graduates. We compare birth cohorts with distinctive experiences, some of whom entered college through political recommendation while others did so through objective examination, and some of whom attained their first job through state assignment while others did so through market matching. We find that a college degree only equalized occupational attainment in cohort 1980–1992, who experienced expanded test-based admissions and a developed labor market. Within-occupation economic returns were equalized in cohort 1966–1979, who experienced test-based admissions and yet an underdeveloped labor market, but appeared to be unequal again in cohort 1980–1992, echoing rising social inequality.