Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I identify causal effects of marriage and cohabitation on total family income. My goals are to compare men’s and women’s changes in financial status upon entering unions and to assess the relative contributions of adjustments in own income, income pooling, and changes in family size. Changes in own income that are due to intrahousehold specialization prove to be minor for both men and women relative to the effects of adding another adult’s income to the family total. Women gain roughly 55% in needs-adjusted, total family income, regardless of whether they cohabit or marry, whereas men’s needs-adjusted income levels remain unchanged when men make these same transitions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Angrist, J. and W. Evans. 1998. “Children and Their Parents’ Labor Supply: Evidence From Exogenous Variation in Family Size.” American Economic Review 88:450–77.
Becker, G.S. 1973. “A Theory of Marriage: Part I.” Journal of Political Economy 81:813–46.
— 1974. “A Theory of Marriage: Part II.” Journal of Political Economy 81(2, Part 2): S11-S26.
— 1991. A Treatise on the Family, enlarged ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Benham, L. 1974. “Benefits of Women’s Education Within Marriage.” Journal of Political Economy 82(2):S57–71.
Bianchi, S.M., L. Subaiya, and J.R. Kahn. 1999. “The Gender Gap in the Economic Well-being of Nonresident Fathers and Custodial Mothers.” Demography 36:95–203.
Blackburn, M. and S. Korenman. 1994. “The Declining Marital Status Earnings Differential.” Journal of Population Economics 7:249–70.
Blackwell, D.L. and D.T. Lichter. 2000. “Mate Selection Among Married and Cohabiting Couples.” Journal of Family Issues 21:275–302.
Blau, F.D. 1998. “The Well-being of American Women.” Journal of Economic Literature 36: 112–65.
Blau, F.D., M.A. Ferber, and A.E. Winkler. 1998. The Economics of Women, Men and Work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Brien, M.J. 1997. “Racial Differences in Marriage and the Role of Marriage Markets.” Journal of Human Resources 32:741–78.
Browning, M., F. Bourguignon, P. Chiappori, and V. Lechene. 1994. “Income and Outcomes: A Structural Model of Intrahousehold Allocation.” Journal of Political Economy 102:1067–96.
Budig, M.J. and P.A. England. 2001. “The Wage Penalty for Motherhood.” American Sociological Review 66:204–25.
Bumpass, L.L. and H. Lu. 2000. “Trends in Cohabitation and Implications for Children’s Family Contexts in the United States.” Population Studies 54(1):29–41.
Bumpass, L.L. and J.A. Sweet. 1989. “National Estimates of Cohabitation.” Demography 26: 615–25.
Burkhauser, R.V., G.J. Duncan, R. Hauser, and R. Berntsen. 1991. “Wife or Frau, Women Do Worse: A Comparison of Men and Women in the United States and Germany After Marital Dissolution.” Demography 28:353–60.
Cancian, M., S. Danziger, and P. Gottschalk. 1993. “Working Wives and Family Income Inequality Among Married Couples.” Pp. 195–223 in Uneven Tides: Rising Inequality in America, edited by S. Danziger and P. Gottschalk. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Cherlin, A.J. 1980. “Postponing Marriage: The Influence of Young Women’s Work Expectations.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 42:355–65.
Citro, C.F. and R.T. Michael. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Cohen, P.N. 2002. “Cohabitation and the Declining Marriage Premium for Men.” Work and Occupations 29:346–63.
Cornwell, C. and P. Rupert. 1997. “Unobservable Individual Effects, Marriage and the Earnings of Young Men.” Economic Inquiry 35:285–94.
Cutler, D.M. and L.F. Katz. 1992. “Rising Inequality? Changes in the Distribution of Income and Consumption in the 1980s.” American Economic Review 82:546–51.
Daniel, K. 1995a. “Does Marriage Raise the Productivity of Workers?” Working paper. Philadelphia: Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
— 1995b. “The Marriage Premium.” Pp. 113–25 in The New Economics of Human Behavior, edited by M. Tommasi and K. Ierulli. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Deaton, A. and C. Paxson. 1998. “Measuring Poverty Among the Elderly.” Pp. 169–204 in Inquiries in the Economics of Aging, edited by D.A. Wise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Duncan, G.J. and S.D. Hoffman. 1985. “Economic Consequences of Marital Instability.” Pp. 427–70 in Horizontal Equity, Uncertainty, and Well-being, edited by M. David and T. Smeeding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fuchs, V. 1986a. “His and Hers: Gender Differences in Work and Income, 1959–1979.” Journal of Labor Economics 4:S245-S272.
— 1986b. “Sex Differences in Economic Well-being.” Science 232(4749):459–64.
Goldin, C. 1989. “Life-Cycle Labor-Force Participation of Married Women: Historical Evidence and Implications.” Journal of Labor Economics 7:20–47.
Gray, J.S. 1997. “The Fall in Men’s Return to Marriage: Declining Productivity Effects or Changing Selection?” Journal of Human Resources 32:481–504.
Heckman, J.J. and V.J. Hotz. 1989. “Choosing Among Alternative Nonexperimental Methods for Estimating the Impact of Social Programs: The Case of Manpower Training.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 84(408):862–74.
Jepsen, L.K. and C.A. Jepsen. 2002. “Matching Patterns of Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Couples.” Demography 39:435–54.
Juhn, C. and K.M. Murphy. 1997. “Wage Inequality and Family Labor Supply.” Journal of Labor Economics 15:72–97.
Korenman, S. and D. Neumark. 1991. “Does Marriage Really Make Men More Productive?” Journal of Human Resources 26:282–307.
— 1994. “Sources of Bias in Women’s Wage Equations.” Journal of Human Resources 29:379–405.
Lam, D. 1988. “Marriage Markets and Assortative Mating With Household Public Goods: Theoretical Results and Empirical Implications.” Journal of Human Resources 23:462–87.
Lewis, S.K. and V.K. Oppenheimer. 2000. “Educational Assortative Mating Across Marriage Markets: Non-Hispanic Whites in the United States.” Demography 37:29–40.
Lichter, D.T., D.R. Graefe, and J.B. Brown. 2003. “Is Marriage a Panacea? Union Formation Among Economically Disadvantaged Unwed Mothers.” Social Problems 50:60–86.
Lichter, D.T., D.K. McLaughlin, and D.C. Ribar. 2002. “Economic Restructuring and the Retreat From Marriage.” Social Science Research 31:230–56.
Loh, E.S. 1996. “Productivity Differences and the Marriage Wage Premium for White Males.” Journal of Human Resources 31:566–89.
Lundberg, S., R.A. Pollak, and T.J. Wales. 1997. “Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources?” Journal of Human Resources 32:463–80.
Lundberg, S. and E. Rose. 2000. “Parenthood and the Earnings of Married Men and Women.” Labour Economics 7:689–710.
Manser, M. and M. Brown. 1980. “Marriage and Household Decision-Making: A Bargaining Analysis.” International Economic Review 21(1):31–44.
Mare, R.D. 1991. “Five Decades of Educational Assortative Mating.” American Sociological Review 56:15–32.
McElroy, M.B. and M.J. Horney. 1981. “Nash-Bargained Decisions: Toward a Generalization of the Theory of Demand.” International Economic Review 22:333–49.
McLanahan, S. and G. Sandefur. 1994. Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Moffitt, R.A. 2000. “Female Wages, Male Wages, and the Economic Model of Marriage.” Pp. 302–19 in The Ties That Bind: Perspectives on Marriage and Cohabitation, edited by L.J. Waite. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Mulligan, C.B. and Y. Rubinstein. 2002. “Specialization, Inequality and the Labor Market for Married Women.” Working paper. Chicago: Department of Economics, University of Chicago.
Nakosteen, R.A. and M.A. Zimmer. 1987. “Marital Status and Earnings of Young Men: A Model With Endogenous Selection.” Journal of Human Resources 22:248–68.
— 2001. “Spousal Selection and Earnings: Evidence of Marital Sorting.” Economic Inquiry 29:201–13.
Oppenheimer, V.K. 1988. “A Theory of Marriage Timing.” American Journal of Sociology 94: 563–91.
— 1994. “Women’s Rising Employment and the Future of the Family in Industrial Societies.” Population and Development Review 20:293–342.
— 1997. “Women’s Employment and the Gains to Marriage: The Specialization and Trading Model.” Annual Review of Sociology 23:431–53.
Phipps, S.A. and P.S. Burton. 1998. “What’s Mine Is Yours? The Influence of Male and Female Incomes on Patterns of Household Expenditure.” Economica 65(260):599–613.
Pollak, R.A. 2000. “Theorizing Marriage.” Pp. 111–25 in The Ties That Bind: Perspectives on Marriage and Cohabitation, edited by L.J. Waite. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Qian, Z. and S.H. Preston. 1993. “Changes in American Marriage, 1972 to 1987: Availability and Forces of Attraction by Age and Education.” American Sociological Review 58:482–95.
Schoen, R. and R.M. Weinick. 1993. “Partner Choice in Marriages and Cohabitations.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 55:408–14.
Smith, J.P. 1979. “The Distribution of Family Earnings.” Journal of Political Economy 87(5, Part 2):S163-S192.
Smock, P.J. and W.D. Manning. 1997. “Cohabiting Partners’ Economic Circumstances and Marriage.” Demography 34:331–41.
Smock, P.J., W.D. Manning, and S. Gupta. 1999. “The Effect of Marriage and Divorce on Women’s Economic Well-being.” American Sociological Review 64:794–812.
South, S.J. and G. Spitze. 1994. “Housework in Marital and Nonmarital Households.” American Sociological Review 59:327–47.
Spain, D. and S. Bianchi. 1996. Balancing Act: Motherhood, Marriage, and Employment Among American Women. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Stratton, L.S. 2002. “Examining the Wage Differential for Married and Cohabiting Men.” Economic Inquiry 40:199–212.
Suen, W. and H. Lui. 1999. “A Direct Test of the Efficient Marriage Market Hypothesis.” Economic Inquiry 37:29–46.
Thomas, A. and I. Sawhill. 2002. “For Richer or for Poorer: Marriage as an Antipoverty Strategy.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 21:587–99.
Thomas, D. 1990. “Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach.” Journal of Human Resources 25:635–64.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2002. “Historical Income Tables—Families,” Table F-7. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/histinc/f07.html Waite, L.J. and M. Gallagher. 2000. The Case for Marriage. New York: Doubleday.
Waldfogel, J. 1997. “The Effect of Children on Women’s Wages.” American Sociological Review 62:209–17.
Weiss, Y. 1997. “The Formation and Dissolution of Families: Why Marry? Who Marries Whom? And What Happens Upon Divorce.” Pp. 81–123 in Handbook of Population and Family Economics, Vol. 1A, edited by M.R. Rosenzweig and O. Stark. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.
Winkler, A.E. 1997. “Economic Decision-Making by Cohabitors: Findings Regarding Income Pooling.” Applied Economics 29:1079–90.
— 1998. “Earnings of Husbands and Wives in Dual-Earner Families.” Monthly Labor Review 121(4):42–48.
Wooldridge, J.M. 2002. Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Xie, Y., J.M. Raymo, K. Goyette, and A. Thornton. 2003. “Economic Potential and Entry Into Marriage and Cohabitation.” Demography 40:351–67.
About this article
Cite this article
Light, A. Gender differences in the marriage and cohabitation income premium*. Demography 41, 263–284 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2004.0016
- Married Couple
- Total Family Income
- Adult Equivalent
- Marriage Premium
- Educational Assortative Mating