We relate intermarriage formation to cultural distance between spouses and legal status acquisition motives in the context of a marital matching framework. We empirically estimate the effect of legal status acquisition on gains to intermarriage exploiting registry data on the universe of marriages in Italy and exogenous variation in immigrants’ legal status, as determined by the EU enlargement process. Other things equal, access to legal status in Italy reduces the probability of intermarrying with native males by almost two-thirds for females from new EU countries, and similarly for males. Building on this evidence, we develop and structurally estimate a multidimensional equilibrium model of marriage and divorce allowing for trade-offs between cultural distance, legal status, and other socio-economic spouses’ characteristics, where individuals match on observed and unobserved characteristics. The results suggest that immigrants are willing to trade off cultural proximity for legal status, and to marry down on other individual traits for that purpose.
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