Estimating the Impact of Marriage on Women’s Wages

Alexandra Killewald, University of Michigan
Margaret Gough, University of Michigan

The costs and benefits of marriage for women are influenced in part by the effect of marriage on women’s earnings potential, yet the wage premium or penalty for married women has been relatively ignored. The theory of within-household specialization predicts that women’s wages will fall upon entry into coresidential unions as their time in household labor rises and their labor market effort falls. If this is the case, marriage contributes to sex stratification by exacerbating the gender gap in pay and reducing wives’ bargaining power within the household. We use data from the NLSY79 and fixed-effects models to assess the marriage premium or penalty for women. In contrast to the specialization model, we find that women have higher wages in the years after their entry into marriage, suggesting that marriage need not be a zero-sum game between spouses in terms of their labor market rewards.

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Presented in Poster Session 3