Please join us for a colloquium being given by Alexandra (Sasha) Killewald, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University.
"New Evidence against a Causal Marriage Wage Premium"
Marriage is associated with increases in men’s wages. Recent research claims the long-term wage benefits of marriage for men are as high as 20 percent and begin prior to marriage, as men anticipate marriage or experience wage benefits of unmarried partnership. We argue instead that marriage has no causal effect on men’s wages in either the short or long term and that research on the marriage wage premium has overlooked literature in other subfields suggesting that marriage occurs when wages are already rising unusually rapidly. A vast literature documents that entrance into marriage depends on economic circumstances, suggesting that effects may flow from wages to marriage, rather than the reverse. Furthermore, the demographic literature on the transition to adulthood suggests that emerging adulthood is a time of both union formation and unusually rapid improvements in work outcomes. Using data from the NLSY79, we evaluate these perspectives, considering both the effects of getting married and remaining married. We conclude that the observed wage patterns are most consistent with men marrying at a time that their wages are already rising more rapidly than expected and divorcing when their wages are already falling, with no additional causal effect of marriage on wages.