Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Patterns of First Marriage Among Children of Immigrants

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Wendy D. Manning (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Sharath Sasidharan (Other)

Third Advisor

Kelly Stamper Balistreri (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Susan L. Brown (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Kara Joyner (Committee Member)


There is a broad consensus among demographers and immigration scholars that adult immigrants are more likely to transition to marriage, and tend to marry a member of the same race than native-born adult Americans. What remains unknown in the literature, however, is whether the marriage patterns of the children of these immigrants are different from their peers with native-born parents. This is an important research question because the marriages of today’s children of immigrants have implications on the future diversity and family forms of the American society. Using discrete-time multilevel methods, ordinary least square regression models, and data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, this dissertation identifies novel patterns of first marriage among children of immigrants. Specifically, the dissertation comprises three main research goals each of which forms an analytic chapter.

In the first empirical chapter, I estimated the likelihood of entry into first marriage among children of immigrants relative to children of nonimmigrants. In this chapter, I provide evidence that suggests that children of immigrants have diverging first marriage trajectories that depend on the group of native-born Americans that immigrant-origin young adults are compared to. For example, most children of immigrants have lower chances of marrying when they are compared to children of native-born whites. At the same time, the likelihood of entry into marriage for some children of immigrants are higher than their co-racial/ethnic peers with native-born parents. The chapter highlights and suggests cultural norms as salient in explaining whether or not children of immigrants marry.

In the second analytic chapter, I address patterns of racial assortative mating among children of immigrants and nonimmigrants. That is, I examine whether children of immigrants (compared to nonimmigrants) are more likely to marry a member of the same race or marry someone of a different racial group. The findings show that children of immigrants are more likely to intermarry than children of nonimmigrants; except for Hispanic children of immigrants, who still choose spouses within their own racial groups. In addition, the findings suggest that children of immigrants’ educational attainment remain a salient structural factor in facilitating their ultimate marital assimilation.

The final analytic chapter determines the association between interracial marriage and the age at first marriage. That is, I examine whether whom (the racial group) young adults choose as a spouse is associated with the time they eventually marry. I also determine whether the relationship varies by immigrant generational status. The results show that young adults in interracial marriages entered these unions at later ages than their peers in the same race marriages. Further, children of immigrants who enter into interracial marriages often do so at much later ages compared to children of native-born Americans in either interracial marriages or within race marriages. The findings imply that young adults’ decisions to enter into interracial marriages may be because of failed search for a partner of the same race. On a whole, this dissertation deepens our understanding about the marriage patterns of the next generation of Americans.