Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 771–804 | Cite as

Knot yet: minimum marriage age law, marriage delay, and earnings

  • Chunbei Wang
  • Le WangEmail author
Original Paper


Despite the historical highs for age at first marriage, little is known about the causal relationship between marriage delay and wages, and more importantly, the mechanisms driving such relationship. We attempt to fill the void. Building on an identification strategy proposed in Dahl (Demography 47:689–718, 2010), we first establish the causal wage effects of marriage delay. We then propose ways to distinguish among competing theories and hypotheses, as well as the channels through which marriage delay affects wages. Specifically, we take advantage of their different implications for causal relationship, across gender and sub-populations. We reach two conclusions. First, we find a positive causal impact of marriage delay on wages, with a larger effect for women. Comparison of IV and OLS estimates suggests that the observed relationship between marriage delay and wages is attributed to both selection in late marriages and true causal effects. Second, we find strong evidence that the positive, causal effects are almost exclusively through increased education for both men and women.


Timing of first marriage Wages Human capital Selection 

JEL Classification

J12 J16 J31 



The authors thank Junsen Zhang (the editor) and three knowledgable referees for their constructive comments. The authors are also particularly grateful to Reagan Baughman, Daniel Henderson, Karen Smith Conway, Amitabh Chandra, Bruce Elmslie, Ju-Chin Huang, Delia Furtado, Sanders Korenman, Ted Joyce, Scott Drewianka, Per Fredriksson, Paul Glewwe, Esfandiar Maasoumi, Daniel Millimet, Solomon Polachek, Subal Kumbhakar, and Christopher Hanes, and seminar participants at the Southern Methodist University, University of New Hampshire, SUNY-Binghamton, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and SEA Annual Meetings for their invaluable comments and suggestions. Mica Kurtz provided excellent research assistance in collecting the data on minimum marriage age laws. The usual disclaimers apply.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsThe University of OklahomaNormanUSA

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