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Mixed-nativity marriages: a marker of immigrants’ integration or marginality in the host countries? Evidence from Italy
Taking up an assimilation hypothesis, the growth of mixed-nativity marriages documented in many developed countries is often regarded as an indicator of immigrants' integration in the receiving societies. We contend that an alternative theoretical approach could enrich our understanding of the complex link between integration (or, assimilation) and intermarriages. Precisely, we build on theories on assortative mating to investigate the salience of status exchange in the formation of mixed-nativity unions in Italy. The country is a new destination of international migration characterised by particularly poor immigrants’ socioeconomic integration. In line with recent empirical evidence emerging from other countries, like Australia, the US and Spain, we provide sound evidence in support of the status exchange hypothesis in Italy. Exploiting Italian Labor Force Survey data and unique register microdata on marriages, we find mixed-nativity marriages to be more likely when less educated older men marry better educated younger women, especially when the latter originate from non-Western countries. Foreign women are also more likely to marry an Italian man if they are not employed. These patterns become more similar when women possess the Italian citizenship at the moment of marriage, confirming the salience of status exchange when immigrants' integration is low.