Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 691–709 | Cite as

Female Earnings and the Returns to Spousal Education Over Time

  • Nicholas A. JollyEmail author
Original Paper


Using U.S. Census data from 1960 to 2000 and American Community Survey data from 2010, this paper estimates the relationship between the husband’s educational attainment and his wife’s annual labor earnings. For full-time working wives, each additional year of completed schooling by the husband was associated with a 2% increase in his wife’s earnings. The returns to spousal education were larger when the couple worked in the same occupation. The estimated relationship has increased slightly since 1970. This increase was larger for younger wives. These results are consistent with cross-productivity and documented increases in educational homogamy.


Marriage Human capital Female earnings Assortative mating 

JEL Classification

J12 J24 J31 



I thank Yilan Liu for motivating this study and providing research assistance. Gwendolyn Davis, Delia Furtado, Marina Gindelsky, Peter Groothuis, Richard Hill, two anonymous referees, the editor, and seminar participants at Marquette University, DePaul University, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, and the Western Economic Association International 2017 Annual Meeting provided helpful comments on earlier drafts. All errors are my own.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study uses publicly available, secondary data from the US Census and American Community Survey. For this type of study, formal consent is not required.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsMarquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA

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