The News Story – Marriage rates keep falling, as money concerns rise
A Pew Research Center Report released Wednesday reveals that a record 20% of adults over the age of 25 have never married, and that number is expected to rise to 25% by 2030.
The New York Times reports that at least a part of this marriage decline is due to “the country’s deepening socioeconomic divide.” Women, it seems, still prefer to marry men who are stably employed. “Educated, high-income people are still marrying at high rates and tending to stay married,” reports the Times. “Remaining unmarried is more common among the less educated, blacks and the young . . .” The report also reveals that lack of financial preparedness is one of the main reasons that young adults are foregoing marriage.
But if current research is correct, these couples may be sacrificing the very economic stability they seek in choosing to stay single.
The New Research – Trying to account for the marriage premium
Researchers are continually awed by the concept of the marriage premium—the wage increase that occurs after marriage, particularly for men. Most cite “specialization” as the likely cause. When a couple marries, the individual partners divide duties in such a way as to increase the wife’s share of household duties, thus allowing the husband more time for paid labor. Alexandra Killewald and Margaret Gough, researchers from Harvard, seek to study the marriage premium more rigorously. Specifically, they hypothesize that if specialization is indeed the reason that men tend to earn more after marriage, specialization should also cause women to earn less.
Using data from the 1979-2008 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the researchers used fixed-effects models that control for selection and test the data in various ways. One model estimates the “total relationship between family status change and wages,” the so-called Total Effect. The second controls for time-use specialization (hours worked and labor market experience) so as to study the “mediating role of employment hours.” The third model “tests the mediating role of job traits and tenure,” thus “further narrowing the gender gap in the marriage premium.”
The data indicate that for men, specialization does indeed explain wage increases, but not entirely: “Changes in men’s employment hours, job traits, and tenure associated with marriage and married fatherhood explain a portion of these wage gains.” The researchers highlight that although specialization at least partly explains the effect on men’s wages, it does not at all account for the changes in women’s wages: “Marriage and cohabitation are associated with wage gains for childless women, not wage losses as predicted by specialization. . . . Furthermore, if anything, marriage alters women’s employment hours, job traits, and tenure in ways beneficial to their wages.”
Killewald and Gough conclude by calling for further research, as specialization does not, in fact, entirely explain the marriage premium, particularly for women. They speculate that men may earn more than women at marriage because “transitions to marriage and married parenthood may encourage men’s sense of responsibility,” whereas “single women already possess these positive traits or because gendered norms of family behavior place less emphasis on financial providership for women.” Whatever the reason, the results are clear: Marriage is related to an increase in income, for both husbands and wives.
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America, Summer 2013, Vol. 27 Number 3. Study: Alexandra Killewald and Margaret Gough, “Does Specialization Explain Marriage Penalties and Premiums?” American Sociological Review 78.3 : 477-502.)