Over the past decade, the number of studies that rely on agent-based modeling to explore the mechanisms that shape people’s marriage decisions has increased considerably. One reason why this approach has spread is that compared to other methods, agent-based modeling makes it easier to deal with the micro-macro problem that family researchers face: namely, that people’s partnering decisions are guided by their personal preferences, but their ability to realize these preferences is constrained by the social context in which they are embedded; and, at the same time, each marriage and each divorce alters the context in which subsequent decisions take place. This creates complex feedback effects between the micro and macro levels that can be difficult to address with standard tools of analysis. Agent-based modeling makes it possible to study such feedback effects, first by implementing assumptions about people’s preferences and the contexts in which they make their marriage decisions in a formal model; and, subsequently, by studying the interplay of these effects in systematic simulation experiments. However, developing an agent-based model comes with its own challenges. For example, it can be difficult to decide precisely how people’s preferences and behavior should be formally represented. As overcoming these challenges can seem like a daunting task for novice modelers, there is a need to develop guidelines that can aid researchers in creating their own models. In this chapter, I aim to take a first step toward meeting this need. I review and compare the ways in which earlier studies have implemented existing marriage market theories in agent-based models. Based on my findings, I then formulate some guidelines that should make it easier for current and future generations of family scholars to apply agent-based modeling in their own work.
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- How to Design Agent-Based Marriage Market Models: A Review of Current Practices