A Good Match? Education, Labour Market Position, and British South Asian Transnational Marriage

Evelyn Ersanilli, Katharine Charsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
259 Downloads (Pure)


This study applies exchange theory to transnational marriages between descendants of migrants to Europe, and partners from their (grand)parents’ country of origin. Such marriages could offer socioeconomic benefits for the European partner/family, if the opportunity of migration attracts a more highly educated spouse. The translation of educational capital into socioeconomic benefits, however, is mediated by the labour market position of migrant spouses. In this study we explore the relationships between transnational marriage, education, and employment, by comparing the characteristics of spouses in transnational couples with those in intranational couples. Analyses are based on UK Labour Force Survey data (2004-2014) for two groups in which transnational marriage is common — Pakistani-Muslims and Indian-Sikhs. We find that educational homogamy is the dominant pattern in both intranational and transnational couples, and that migrant spouses have a disadvantaged labour market position compared to non-migrant spouses with the same level of education — with variation across gender and ethnic groups. Our findings do not support a view of transnational marriage as socioeconomic exchange, but do suggest education plays a role in spousal choice in these marriages.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcy040
Pages (from-to)133–146
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship


  • transnational marriage
  • South Asian migrants
  • structural integration
  • partner choice
  • integration
  • ethnicity
  • United Kingdom
  • socio-economic integration
  • migrants in the labour market
  • status exchange


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