NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 3, 2004

A new study by two economists suggests that getting married might significantly increase the wages of men. Economists Robert Town and Kate Antonovics used a sample of male identical twins to determine how much individuals become better off through marriage.

They found:

  • Controlling for education, age and some other variables, the married men in their sample earned about 19 percent more than unmarried men.
  • The wage differentials between twins, while still controlling for education, has married twins earning 26 percent more than their unmarried siblings.

The authors also found essentially the same results if they factored in divorced or widowed status, or added a variable like a spouse's work experience, number of children and wage history.

The goal of using identical twins, say the authors, was to eliminate most of the effects that might cause a spurious marriage-wage correlation, such as physical and mental capabilities, upbringing, and physical appearance. After all, one may be married because of high earnings, and not the other way around.

It is still tenuous to say marriage causes higher earnings, despite the precautions taken by the researchers to isolate other causes. The married twin may still be quite different than their sibling -- stronger work ethic, more or less shy, and so forth -- and that difference is important to both potential spouses and employers, say the researchers.

Source: Hal R. Varian, "Analyzing the Marriage Gap," New York Times, July 29, 2004 and Kate Antonovics and Robert Town, "Are All the Good Men Married? Uncovering the Sources of the Marital Wage Premium," University of California, San Diego, Discussion Paper 2003-15, November 2003.

For study text


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