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The effects of remarriage on women’s labor supply

Abstract

Many studies have found that women decrease their labor supply upon marriage and increase their labor supply upon divorce. This paper examines whether that pattern varies depending on whether the marriage is a first or higher-order one using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics for the years 1979 through 2001. The combination of a greater expected probability that a remarriage will end and the failure of household production to bring returns upon the end of a previous marriage may make women less likely to reduce their labor supply in second or higher marriages as compared to a first marriage. The results differ for the intensive and extensive margins of labor supply. With one exception, after controlling for background characteristics, the estimates imply that the probability of working is related to marriage in a similar manner regardless of whether the marriage is a first or a remarriage. In contrast, the estimates provide support for the possibility that decreases in hours of work upon marriage are smaller in second and higher marriages as compared to first marriages.

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Notes

  1. In contrast, work by Lehrer (2003) indicates that the probability of divorce is similar for an average couple in a first marriage and an average couple in a higher-order marriage but that the variance in the chance of divorce is much greater for the couple in the high-order marriage—making the higher-order marriage a riskier union.

  2. van der Klaauw (1996) is the first study to model and estimates women’s marital transitions and labor supply jointly in a dynamic setting. He lays out a number of explanations as to why a life-cycle model is appropriate, including that interruptions in labor market participation from marriage or children can have long-term effects through lower future wages and consequently make a wife more economically dependent on her husband.

  3. All three methodologies abstract from joint labor supply decisions among couples and treat labor supply and labor income of the spouse as exogenous. The estimates assume that married women make their labor supply decisions conditional on those of their spouses’.

  4. Appendix provides the coefficient estimates from the marriage equations: (1) if married, whether to remain married, and (2) if unmarried, whether to get married.

  5. The sex ratios are calculated from the outgoing rotation group of the CPS and are defined as in Fitzgerald (1991). I thank Maury Gittleman for sharing the programs used to calculate these measures.

  6. I specify continuous latent variable indices for each of the observed binary outcomes and assume that the error terms for each follows a normal distribution, thus, implying a probit model for each discrete outcome.

  7. In addition, these women are PSID sample members, not wives of sample members. This insures that the PSID will attempt to follow them regardless of marital decisions.

  8. Although 1792 women report having married at least once, in the years of data used only 1553 are observed while married. Of the 686 women who report being divorced or separated, 413 are observed while divorced or separated.

  9. All monetary values have been converted to 1984–1985 dollars using the CPI-U.

  10. Note that these results are identical to those from estimating the full information maximum likelihood model with no controls for unobserved heterogeneity.

  11. Both van der Klaauw (1996) and Seitz (2002) impose a threshold of 750 hours for labor-force participation.

  12. Estimates based on data from the 1980 and 1985 June CPS show that for white women about 50% of those who remarry have a child after remarriage and that about 35% of all births occurred after remarriage. Wineberg (1990a) In addition, Wineberg (1990b) shows the proportion of births during first marriages fell while the proportion of births during second marriages rose between the early 1970s and the early 1980s as incidence of both divorce and remarriage were rising.

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Acknowledgement

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the policies of the BLS or the views of other BLS staff members. I thank Chuck Pierret, Donna Rothstein, Sabrina Pabilonia, and anonymous referees for helpful comments. All errors are my own.

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Correspondence to Alison Aughinbaugh.

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Responsible editor: Deborah Cobb-Clark

Appendix: Coefficient estimates from marriage equations

Appendix: Coefficient estimates from marriage equations

  No heterogenteity controls Joint normal distribution Discrete factor distribution
Stay married Get married Stay married Get married Stay married Get married
Sex ratio (State level) −0.548 (0.295) −0.272 (0.262) −0.537 (0.437) −0.249 (0.322) −0.596 (0.452) −0.125 (0.337)
First born = male 0.023 (0.066) 0.131 (0.073) 0.032 (0.093) 0.136 (0.100) 0.019 (0.092) 0.080 (0.094)
Unilateral divorce 0.729 ∗  (0.362) 0.252 (0.330) 0.719 (0.527) 0.231 (0.402) 0.804 (0.559) 0.106 (0.337)
Missing state −0.656 (0.360) −0.308 (0.317) −0.648 (0.530) −0.313 (0.403) −0.720 (0.551) −0.187 (0.424)
Age 0.035 (0.038) 0.115 ∗ ∗  (0.041) 0.031 (0.048) 0.135 ∗  (0.060) 0.024 (0.052) 0.144 (0.563)
Age squared −0.001 (0.000) −0.002 ∗ ∗  (0.001) −0.001 (0.001) −0.002 ∗  (0.001) −0.001 (0.001) −0.002 (0.001)
# Children ages 0 to 2 −0.293 ∗ ∗  (0.092) −0.259 ∗  (0.116) −0.289 ∗  (0.133) −0.219 (0.145) −0.293 ∗  (0.141) −0.194 (0.139)
# Children ages 3 to 5 −0.100 (0.056) 0.330 ∗ ∗  (0.064) −0.104 (0.082) 0.332 ∗ ∗  (0.086) −0.111 (0.081) 0.369 ∗ ∗  (0.086)
# Children ages 6 to 11 −0.066 (0.051) 0.039 (0.072) −0.069 (0.071) 0.057 (0.096) −0.085 (0.071) 0.076 (0.093)
# Children ages 12 + 0.006 (0.038) 0.026 (0.050) 0.007 (0.052) 0.011 (0.067) 0.002 (0.052) 0.015 (0.063)
Log of nonlabor income 0.121 ∗ ∗  (0.019) −0.013 (0.018) 0.123 ∗ ∗  (0.022) −0.016 (0.021) 0.140 ∗ ∗  (0.023) −0.016 (0.021)
Catholic −0.136 (0.101) −0.031 (0.110) −0.134 (0.139) −0.040 (0.155) −0.040 (0.156) 0.064 (0.158)
Other −0.059 (0.126) −0.100 (0.123) −0.067 (0.183) −0.116 (0.175) −0.078 (0.191) −0.131 (0.181)
Midwest 0.055 (0.084) 0.031 (0.090) 0.059 (0.111) 0.037 (0.131) 0.100 (0.117) 0.037 (0.129)
South 0.219 ∗ ∗  (0.082) 0.210 ∗  (0.095) 0.224 ∗  (0.107) 0.219 (0.131) 0.243 ∗  (0.114) 0.276 ∗  (0.137)
West 0.129 (0.096) 0.067 (0.105) 0.132 (0.125) 0.084 (0.143) 0.173 (0.128) 0.099 (0.147)
Outside of USA 0.815 ∗ ∗  (0.152) −0.457 ∗  (0.204) 0.816 ∗ ∗  (0.175) −0.528 (0.273) 0.763 ∗ ∗  (0.192) −0.428 (0.261)
Number of annual obs. 14,760 4,774 14,760 4,774 14,760 4,774
  1. Standard deviations are in parentheses. Other controls include mother’s educational attainment, father’s educational attainment, year indicators, work experience, and for the “stay married” equation, length of marriage
  2. *p = 0.05, **p = 0.01

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Aughinbaugh, A. The effects of remarriage on women’s labor supply. J Popul Econ 23, 1151–1176 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-009-0256-5

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Keywords

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Remarriage
  • Labor supply

JEL Classifications

  • J12
  • J2