Men's Career Development and Marriage Timing During a Period of Rising Inequality

Published in: Demography, v. 34, no. 3, Aug. 1997, p. 311-330

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 1997

by Valerie Kincade Oppenheimer, Matthijs Kalmijn, Nelson Lim

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Based on data from 1979-1990 NLSY interviews, we investigate the implications of rising economic inequality for young men's marriage timing. Our approach is to relate marriage formation to the ease or difficulty of the career-entry process and to show that large race/schooling differences in career development lead to substantial variations in marriage timing. We develop measures of current career "maturity" and of long-term labor-market position. Employing discrete-time event-history methods, we show that these variables have a substantial impact on marriage formation for both blacks and whites. Applying our regression results to models based on observed race/schooling patterns of career development, we then estimate cumulative proportions ever married in a difficult versus an easy career-entry process. We find major differences in the pace of marriage formation, depending on the difficulty of the career transition. We also find considerable differences in these marriage timing patterns across race/schooling groups corresponding to the large observed differences in the speed and difficulty of career transitions between and within these groups.

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