The Effect of Male Wage Inequality on Female Age at First Marriage

Published in: The Review of Economics and Statistics, v. 84, no. 2, May 2002, p. 237-250

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2001

by David S Loughran

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A model in which women search for husbands characterized by their wages predicts increasing within-group male wage inequality, raises the expected value of continued marital search, and so lowers female marriage propensities. Using 1970, 1980, and 1990 census data, the author test this hypothesis within geographically, racially, and educationally defined marriage markets. The estimates suggest rising male wage inequality accounted for 7% to 18% if the decline in the propensity to marry between 1970 and 1990 for white women and more-educated black women. Growing wage inequality appears to have had little effect on the marriage behavior of less-educated black women.

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