Modelling "marriage markets": A population-scale implementation and parameter test

Lyndon Walker, Peter Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Choice mechanisms and social networks, including "marriage markets", seem well-suited to be modelled using agent-type simulations. Few real-world empirical examples are available in the public literature, particularly those using human populations of size. We reviewed partnership models in both the micro-simulation and agent-based literatures. We then empirically implemented an algorithm derived from two established models using inter-censal data on first partnerships in New Zealand over the period 1981-2006. The purpose of the exercise was to test the robustness of different parameter settings and to determine whether a model simulating partnership selection among eligible never-married young adults at one census period is feasible for predicting patterns of partnership, co-habitation and marriage at the next. Varying simulation time and social network size parameters of the model showed that patterns of ethnic partnering could be consistently produced and were not dependent on these model settings. Examining the different scoring methods showed that age similarity, education similarity, and previous partnering patterns could produce partnership patterns similar to those seen in the census. The simulation produced patterns of ethnic partnering similar to those seen in the census and seemed robust to different parameter settings. To further improve these results, an optimised combination of the scoring components is proposed. The simulations also provided preliminary evidence of ethnic preferences in the New Zealand marriage market.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnicity
  • Homophily
  • Marriage
  • Simulation

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