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Male wage inequality and marital dissolution: Is there a link?

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  • Andriana Bellou

Abstract

After almost a century-long pattern of rising marital instability, divorce rates levelled off in 1980 and have been declining ever since. The timing of deceleration and decline in the rates of marital dissolution interestingly coincides with a period of substantial growth in wage inequality. This paper establishes a novel connection between the two phenomena and discusses potential explanations for the underlying link. Using female marital histories in a duration analysis framework combined with regional and temporal variation in the pattern of male wage dispersion, I show that inequality has a significant stabilizing effect on the marriage. Quantitatively, increases in male wage dispersion can roughly explain up to 30% of the fall in the mean separation probability between 1979 and 1990. Several plausible explanations are discussed: changes in spousal labour supplies, female wage inequality, income uncertainty, social capital as well as a hypothesis where inequality renders the option to divorce less attractive by making remarriage more difficult.

Suggested Citation

  • Andriana Bellou, 2017. "Male wage inequality and marital dissolution: Is there a link?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(1), pages 40-71, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:50:y:2017:i:1:p:40-71
    DOI: 10.1111/caje.12250
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    Cited by:

    1. Berthold, Norbert & Gründler, Klaus, 2014. "On the empirics of social mobility: A macroeconomic approach," Discussion Paper Series 128, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Chair of Economic Order and Social Policy.
    2. Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2012. "A Matter of Weight? The Role of Spouses. Physical Attractiveness on Hours of Work," CHILD Working Papers Series 7, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    3. Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2012. "Fat spouses and hours of work: are body and Pareto weights correlated?," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 1(1), pages 1-21, December.
    4. Berthold Norbert & Gründler Klaus, 2014. "Empirie sozialer Mobilität und wirtschaftspolitische Implikationen / The Determinants of Social Mobility and their Implications for Economic Policy," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 65(1), pages 279-302, January.

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    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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