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Does marriage affect men’s labor market outcomes? A European perspective

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Does marriage make men more productive, or do more productive men marry? Previous studies have reached different conclusions but have also been conducted using different methodologies in different countries and in different time periods. We use two sources of European panel data (spanning the years 1994–2001 and 2003–2007) to assess the relationship between marriage and labor market outcomes. By using data from 12 countries over a 13 year period, we are able to investigate the impact of marriage in different country groups and across time. We find that selection into marriage accounts for most of the differences in hours worked and wages between married and non-married men. With respect to wages we note that while the difference between married and non-married males has increased over time, the actual effect of marriage has disappeared.

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  1. Two other common economic explanations for the male marriage wage premium are compensating differentials and discrimination (Ribar 2004).

  2. We use Longitudinal UDB SILC 2007, rev 1. The included countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Estonia. Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Cyprus, and Latvia.

  3. The countries included in ECHP are: Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland, and Sweden.

  4. Since the values are logged for hours worked, these percentages for EU-SILC are calculated as follows: (e3.710/e3.670) − 1 = 0.041. The same type of calculation applies to wages.

  5. This measure is preferred to a measure of crude divorce rates as such a measure would possibly confuse a low marriage rate with a low divorce rate. In any case, we reach the same conclusions if we use divorces per 1,000 individuals (results available upon request).

  6. Period 3 consists of 5 years rather than four as in the other periods. However, the EU-SILC data only contain observations for people for up to four years and the observations in 2003 consist of 2521 individuals in Luxemburg. The results do not change when we exclude observations from 2003.


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The paper has benefited from comments by seminar participants at the University of Gothenburg, University of Karlstad, and Norwegian Social Research. We would also like to thank Henning Finseraas, Katarina Katz, Mikael Svensson, and Måns Söderbom for useful comments.

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Correspondence to Niklas Jakobsson.

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Jakobsson, N., Kotsadam, A. Does marriage affect men’s labor market outcomes? A European perspective. Rev Econ Household 14, 373–389 (2016).

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