How Do Married Men Get Ahead? A Process-Based Examination of the Male Marriage Premium

Alexandra Killewald, Harvard University
Ian Lundberg, Harvard University

The wage premium for married men is well-documented. Prior research has concentrated on understanding why this might be so, focusing on the role of household specialization. Largely absent from this research is attention to the job processes by which married men realize wage gains. We propose three possible pathways: (1) increased work experience, (2) improved employment histories, including longer job tenure and better job match, and (3) moves to higher-paying job types. We find that each of these processes contributes to the male marriage premium, although work experience is the most important. We further find that increases in work experience benefit married men about equally, regardless of wives’ labor supply, casting doubt on a pure specialization explanation. Lastly, we demonstrate the importance of flexibly specifying mediating variables: Conventional measures of work experience substantially understate the share of the marriage premium attributable to changes in work hours.

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Presented in Session 156: Gender, Family, and Careers