Thematic issue: The legacy of Corrado Gini in population studies

Selection criteria of partner: comparison between transnational and homogamous couples in Italy

Giuseppe Gabrielli, Anna Paterno


The transnational couples growth notably in Italy during the recent past. Bearing in mind the relevant literature, we aim at analysing the patterns of mate selection of such unions in comparison with homogamous ones. We also seek to verify if the exchange theory fit to the Italian context, examining some elements of heterogeneity between the partners (age and occupational differences). Lastly, we try to identify who “gains” and who “loses” in the union and how the distribution of “power” is defined.

We perform descriptive and multivariate analysis mostly using individual data coming from the 2012 Births and Mothers Sample Survey.

Main results show the presence of distinctive mate selection patterns of transnational couples, and that a “variant” of the exchange theory can be suitable the case of Italy. In fact, a “bargain” occurs between the partners, but it involves different aspects with respect to the ones quoted in the “classical” hypotheses. The foreign partner “offers” his/her relative youth, while the Italian one “counterbalances” with his/her “ethnic status”, and better occupational characteristics. This “bargaining” can produce a state of inferiority of the foreign partner, even if there is a risk that the latter has been adapted to solutions of convenience.

Giuseppe GABRIELLI, Researcher, Department of Political Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Italy. E-mail:

Anna PATERNO, Professor of Demography, Department of Political Sciences, University of Bari, Italy. E-mail:


transnational couples; mate selection; Italy; exchange theory

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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54