The authors examine the phenomenon of mixed marriages involving Italian men and foreign women, in particular from Eastern Europe. Consistent with the status exchange theory, these unions systematically deviate from the assortative mating standards, as women are more educated and younger than their Italian partners. The authors highlight the existence of a multiplicity of factors at the base of such unions. The consideration of the perspective of the foreign partner highlights the salience of socio-economic factors and the legal conditions of migrants in Italy. The analysis of the Italian partner’s perspective points to the increased "crowding out" of low-educated men on the marriage market. Also a cultural explanation applies, as foreign women are more compliant with traditional gender roles. Overall, the results reject a simplistic reading of the growth of mixed marriages as an indicator of increased integration of immigrants and social openness.
Keywords: Mixed marriages, integration, assimilation theory, status exchange theory, Italy, Eastern Europe.