Why Do Married Men Earn More? An Evaluation of the Marriage Premium

Tara L. Becker, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Aimée R. Dechter, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Married men receive higher wages than single men do. Many have tested whether or not this is due to selection and find that the so called marriage premium persists. Few, however, have explored the mechanisms. If the premium is related to the instrumental and emotional support provided by marriage, one might expect that the gains to marriage are weaker in unhappy relationships. This paper will focus on whether the premium is conditioned by marriage "quality". We will estimate fixed and random effects natural log wage models for a sample of males from the National Survey of Families and Households. Husbands in marriages not characterized as happy have a lower predicted wage than those in happy and somewhat happy marriages. General happiness appears to account for only some of this difference. Very happily married men receive higher wages than never married and previously married men but lower wages than other husbands.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 21: Stratification Processes