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The Effect of Marriage and Childbearing on the Wages of Men and Women

Published In: The Journal of Human Resources, v. 44, no. 2, Spring 2007, p. 326-349

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by David S. Loughran, Julie Zissimopoulos

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We use data from the earlier and later cohorts of the NLSY to estimate the effect of marriage and childbearing on wages. Our estimates imply that marriage lowers female wages 2-4 percent in the year of marriage. Marriage also lowers the wage growth of men and women by about two and four percentage points, respectively. A first birth lowers female wages 2-3 percent, but has no effect on wage growth. Male wages are unaffected by childbearing. These findings suggest that early marriage and childbearing can lead to substantial decreases in lifetime earnings.

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