, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 623–647 | Cite as

How do marital status, work effort, and wage rates interact?

  • Avner Ahituv
  • Robert I. LermanEmail author


How marital status interacts with men’s earnings is an important analytic and policy issue, especially in the context of debates in the United States over programs that encourage healthy marriage. This paper generates new findings about the earnings-marriage relationship by estimating the linkages among flows into and out of marriage, work effort, and wage rates. The estimates are based on National Longitudinal Survey of Youth panel data, covering 23 years of marital and labor market outcomes, and control for unobserved heterogeneity. We estimate marriage effects on hours worked (our proxy for work effort) and on wage rates for all men and for black and low-skilled men separately. The estimates reveal that entering marriage raises hours worked quickly and substantially but that marriage’s effect on wage rates takes place more slowly while men continue in marriage. Together, the stimulus to hours worked and wage rates generates an 18%–19% increase in earnings, with about one-third to one-half of the marriage earnings premium attributable to higher work effort. At the same time, higher wage rates and hours worked encourage men to marry and to stay married. Thus, being married and having high earnings reinforce each other over time.


Ordinary Little Square Wage Rate Unobserved Heterogeneity Work Effort Wage Premium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ahituv, A. and R. Lerman. 2005. “Job Turnover, Wage Rates, and Marital Stability: How Are They Related?” IZA Discussion Paper No. 1470. Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany.Google Scholar
  2. Antonovics, K.L. and R. Town. 2004. “Are All the Good Men Married? Uncovering the Sources of the Marital Wage Premium.” American Economic Review 94:317–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, G.S., E.M. Landes, and R.T. Michael. 1977. “An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability.” Journal of Political Economy 85:1141–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackburn, M. and S. Korenman. 1994. “The Declining Marital-Status Earnings Differential.” Journal of Population Economics 7:247–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burgess, S., C. Propper, and A. Aassve. 2003. “The Role of Income in Marriage and Divorce Transitions Among Young Americans.” Journal of Population Economics 16:455–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Call, V. and J. Teachman. 1996. “Life-Course Timing and Sequencing of Marriage and Military Service and Their Effects on Marital Stability.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58:219–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Charles, K. and M. Stephens, Jr. 2004. “Job Displacement, Disability, and Divorce.” Journal of Labor Economics 22:489–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chun, H. and I. Lee. 2001. “Why Do Married Men Earn More: Productivity or Marriage Selection?” Economic Inquiry 39(2):307–19.Google Scholar
  9. Cornwell, C. and P. Rupert. 1997. “Unobservable Individual Effects, Marriage, and the Earnings of Young Men.” Economic Inquiry 35:285–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daniel, K. 1995. “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.Google Scholar
  11. Ellwood, D. and C. Jencks. 2004. “The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States Since 1960.” Pp. 25–65 in The Future of the Family, edited by D.P. Moynihan, T. Smeeding, and L. Rainwater. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Freeman, R. and J. Waldfogel. 1998. “Does Child Support Enforcement Policy Affect Male Labor Supply?” Pp. 94–127 in Fathers Under Fire: The Revolution in Child Support Enforcement, edited by I. Garfinkel, S.S. McLanahan, D.R. Meyer, and J.A. Seltzer. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  13. Ginther, D. and M. Zavodny. 2001. “Is the Male Marriage Premium Due to Selection? The Effect of Shotgun Weddings on the Return to Marriage.” Journal of Population Economics 14:313–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goldin, C. 1990. Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gould, E. and M. D. Paserman. 2003. “Waiting for Mr. Right: Rising Inequality and Declining Marriage Rates.” Journal of Urban Economics 53:257–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hersch, J. and L. Stratton. 2000. “Household Specialization and the Male Marriage Wage Premium.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 54:78–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hotz, V.J., L. Xu, M. Tienda, and A. Ahituv. 2002. “Are There Returns to the Wages of Young Men From Working While in School?” Review of Economics and Statistics 84:221–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kenny, L. 1983. “The Accumulation of Human Capital During Marriage by Males.” Economic Inquiry 21:223–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Korenman, S. and D. Neumark. 1991. “Does Marriage Really Make Men More Productive?” Journal of Human Resources 26:282–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krashinsky, H. 2004. “Do Marital Status and Computer Usage Really Change the Wage Structure.” Journal of Human Resources 39:774–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lerman, R. 2002. “Marriage and the Economic Well-Being of Families With Children: A Review of the Literature.” Report. Urban Institute, Washington, DC. Available online at http://www.urban. org/url.cfm?ID=410541Google Scholar
  23. Loh, E.S. 1996. “Productivity Differences and the Marriage Premium for White Males.” Journal of Human Resources 31:566–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Loughran, D. 2002. “The Effect of Male Wage Inequality on Female Age at First Marriage.” Review of Economics and Statistics 84:237–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Manning, W.D. and P.J. Smock. 1995. “Why Marry? Race and the Transition to Marriage Among Cohabiters.” Demography 32:509–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moffitt, R. 2005. “Remarks on the Analysis of Causal Relationships in Population Research.” Demography 42:91–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Neal, D. 2004. “The Relationship Between Marriage Market Prospects and Never-Married Motherhood.” Journal of Human Resources 39:938–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. The New York Times, editorial. 2004. “Heartless Marriage Plans.” January 17, p. A14.Google Scholar
  29. Nock, S. 2005. “Marriage as a Public Issue.” The Future of Children 15(2):13–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Oppenheimer, V.K. 2003. “Cohabiting and Marriage During Young Men’s Career Development Process.” Demography 40:127–49.Google Scholar
  31. Parsons, D. 1977. “Health, Family Structure, and Labor Supply.” American Economic Review 67:703–12.Google Scholar
  32. Presser, H. 2000. “Nonstandard Work Schedules and Marital Instability.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62:93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reed, W.R. and K. Harford. 1989. “The Marriage Premium and Compensating Wage Differentials.” Journal of Population Economics 2:237–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ribar, D. 2004. “What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage? A Review of Quantitative Methodologies.” IZA Discussion Paper 998. Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany.Google Scholar
  35. Schoeni, R. 1995. “Marital Status and Earnings in Developed Countries.” Journal of Population Economics 8:351–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smock, P.J. and W.D. Manning. 1997. “Cohabitation Partners’ Economic Circumstances and Marriage.” Demography 34:331–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stratton, L. 2002. “Examining the Wage Differential for Married and Cohabiting Men.” Economic Inquiry 40:199–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Teachman, J.D., V.R.A. Call, and K.P. Carver. 1994. “Marital Status and the Duration of Joblessness Among White Men.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 56:415–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1994. City-County Data Book: 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  40. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 2006. Regional Economic Accounts. Available online at http:// Scholar
  41. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2007. Local Area Unemployment Statistics. Available online at Scholar
  42. Waite, L.J. and M. Gallagher. 2000. The Case for Marriage. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  43. Weiss, Y. and R.J. Willis. 1997. “Match Quality, New Information, and Marital Dissolution.” Journal of Labor Economics 15:S293-S329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilson, C. and A. Oswald. 2005. “How Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health? A Survey of the Longitudinal Evidence.” IZA Discussion Paper 1619. Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany.Google Scholar
  45. Wilson, W.J. 1987. The Truly Disadvantaged. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wood, R.G. 1995. “Marriage Rates and Marriageable Men: A Test of the Wilson Hypothesis.” Journal of Human Resources 30:163–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of HaifaUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsAmerican UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)USA
  4. 4.Urban InstituteNW

Personalised recommendations