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Ludwig, Volker; Brüderl, Josef (2018): Is There a Male Marital Wage Premium? New Evidence from the United States. In: American Sociological Review, Vol. 83, No. 4: pp. 744-770


This study reconsiders the phenomenon that married men earn more money than unmarried men, a key result of the research on marriage benefits. Many earlier studies have found such a male marital wage premium. Recent studies using panel data for the United States conclude that part of this premium is due to selection of high earners into marriage. Nevertheless, a substantial effect of marriage seems to remain. The current study investigates whether the remaining premium is really a causal effect. Using conventional fixed-effects models, previous studies statistically controlled for selection based on wage levels only. We suggest a more general fixed-effects model that allows for higher wage growth of to-be-married men. The empirical test draws on panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979 to 2012). We replicate the main finding of the literature: a wage premium remains after controlling for selection on individual wage levels. However, the remaining effect is not causal. The results show that married men earn more because selection into marriage operates not only on wage levels but also on wage growth. Hence, men on a steep career track are especially likely to marry. We conclude that arguments postulating a wage premium for married men should be discarded.