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The Effect of Marriage on the Wages of Americans: Gender and Generational Differences

By William Song and Theresa Tong

A substantial body of literature on the wage effects of marriage finds that married American men earn anywhere from 10% to 40% higher wages than unmarried men on average, while married American women earn up to 7% less than unmarried women, even after controlling for traits such as background, education, and number of children. Because this literature focuses heavily on men born in a single time period, we study both men and women in two different generational cohorts of Americans (Baby Boomers and Millennials) from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth to examine how the wage effects of marriage differ between genders and across time. Using a fixed effects approach, we find that Millennial women—but not Baby Boomer women—experience an increase in wages after marriage, and we replicate the finding from the literature that men experience an increase in wages after marriage as well. However, after controlling for wage trajectory-based selection into marriage by using a modified fixed effects approach that allows wage trajectories to vary by individual, we find that the wage effects of marriage are no longer statistically significant for any group in our data, suggesting that the wage differences between married and unmarried individuals found in previous studies are primarily a result of selection.

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Advisors: Professor Marjorie McElroy, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: C33; D13; J12; J13; J22; J30

Sister competition and birth order effects among marriage-aged girls: Evidence from a field experiment in rural Bangladesh

By Stephanie Zhong

Early marriage before the age of 18 is prevalent among adolescent girls in Bangladesh, but the timing of marriage is not uniform across daughters within a household, with some sisters marrying earlier than others. Using survey data from a novel field experiment from rural Bangladesh, I find that girls ages 10-21 with lower birth order tend to be married at a younger age, even when controlling for confounding nature of household size on birth order. Additionally, girls with younger sisters are more likely to be married and at a younger age than girls with younger brothers. The findings on dowry are inclusive.

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Advisors: Dr. Erica Field and Dr. Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D13, J13, O15

Tying the Knot: Links Between the Labor and Marriage Markets

By Shafiq Haris, Alexander Prezioso, Michael Temple, Logan Turner, Kevin Zipf, Elizabeth Di Giulio, and Joseph Ueland

This paper analyzes the impact of exogenous shifts in the labor market on the marriage market. The relationship between these two markets is complicated by their reverse causality. That is to say, labor market decisions play into marriage market decisions, and vice versa. In order to mitigate this simultaneous determination, this paper adopts and furthers a methodology utilized by Autor, Dorn and Hansen (2015). Henceforth referred to as ADH, the authors analyze the effects of trade on local labor markets between 1980 and 2007. All 722 commuting zones in the continental United States were evaluated with respect to their level of exposure to increasing competition from Chinese imports, and the share of jobs within the commuting zone considered “routine,” and thus susceptible to computerization and/or mechanization. The authors analyze the impact of these independent variables on labor force participation. This paper takes Autor, et al’s analysis one step further by using the routinization and trade variables as instruments through which we can observe the exogenous impact of the labor market on marital status shares. This paper progresses through two specifications before ultimately utilizing a TwoStage Least Squares analysis with Autor et al’s instruments to isolate the impact of decadal changes in the labor market on decadal changes in male and female marital status shares. Analysis is performed on different age groups, as both the marriage and labor market are different for people of different ages. The first specification applies Autor, et. al’s righthand side with marital status shares as dependent variables. The second specification adds labor market ratios, which relate male and female labor market status. The previously mentioned final specification offers easily interpreted results and is the most encompassing model. Overall, we find that the labor market affects the marriage market much like the current literature would suggest. For example, as male employment increases, the share of females never married decreases and the share of females married increases. This relationship is consistent with existing marriage market theory. However, the results suggest that the literature does not hold in the oldest age group in the data, as power dynamics in the marriage market shift. Our methodology and findings are unique, as we explore this field through a new lens. Future research can expand upon this by incorporating a dataset with information regarding cohabitation habits and consistent longitudinal variable measurements for controls.

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Advisor: Marjorie McElroy | JEL Codes: J1, J12, J21 | Tagged: Employment, Marriage

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