Marriage and female wages: do married women pay a penalty or earn a premium?

Sean de Hoon, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Renske Keizer, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Pearl Dykstra, Erasmus University Rotterdam

The relation between marital status and wages has been well-documented in the sociological and economic literatures for men: married men are generally found to earn more than single men. However, we know comparatively little about linkages between marital status and wages for women. Research examining the mechanisms underlying a wage penalty or premium for married women has for instance been very limited and as almost all studies to date have been conducted in the United States, we know little about the relation between marriage and female wages in other countries. The present paper aims to fill these gaps by examining the following questions: do married women earn more than single women? Or does marriage lead to a wage penalty for women, similar to the wage penalty mothers are faced with? And if so, what can explain this? Furthermore, we ask whether the relation between marriage and women’s wages varies across countries. If so, to what extent can differences be explained by variations in country level characteristics? To answer these research questions, we adopt a multilevel approach in a Bayesian framework and use micro-level data from the Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS), coupled with macro-level data from the MULTILINKS database. Preliminary results suggest marriage is either associated negatively or not associated with women’s wages, with substantial cross-national variations. In line with the specialization perspective, part of the marriage penalty for women seems to be explained by the relative amount of household tasks they perform. Overall, our results thus suggest that marriage contributes to the gender wage gap, as married men generally earn more, while married women either earn less or do not benefit from marriage.

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Presented in Session 37: Socioeconomic well-being of partnership