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The Married Widow: Marriage Penalties Matter!

  • Michael Baker

    (University of Toronto and NBER)

  • Emily Hanna

    (University of Toronto)

  • Jasmin Kantarevic

    (University of Toronto)

Marriage penalties are a controversial feature of many government policies. Empirical evidence of their behavioral effects is quite mixed, which is surprising because economic theory predicts that they should have an impact on the headship decision. We investigate the removal of marriage penalties from the surviving spouse pensions of the Canadian public pension system in the 1980s. These reforms provide a simple and transparent source of identification. Our results indicate that marriage penalties can have large and persistent effects on marriage decisions. We also present evidence suggesting that it is individuals with characteristics correlated with greater wealth who respond to the penalties. (JEL: J1, H2) Copyright (c) 2004 The European Economic Association.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 2 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (06)
Pages: 634-664

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:2:y:2004:i:4:p:634-664
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  1. Marianne Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes & Madeline Zavodny, 2002. "The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2002-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  2. Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Amitabh Chandra, 1999. "Taxes and the Timing of Birth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 161-177, February.
  3. Pierre Lefebvre & Phillip Merrigan & Martin Dooley, . "Lone Female Headship and Welfare Policy in Canada," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 08, McMaster University.
  4. Miles Corak, . "Death and Divorce: The Long Term Consequences of Parental Loss on Adolescents," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 39, McMaster University.
  5. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2001. "Social Approval, Values, and AFDC: A Reexamination of the Illegitimacy Debate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 637-666, June.
  6. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn & FJane Waldfogel, 2004. "The Impact of Welfare Benefits on Single Motherhood and Headship of Young Women: Evidence from the Census," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  7. Sjoquist, David L. & Walker, Mary Beth, 1995. "The Marriage Tax and the Rate and Timing of Marriage," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(4), pages 547-58, December.
  8. Michael Baker, 2002. "The Retirement Behavior of Married Couples: Evidence from the Spouse's Allowance," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(1), pages 1-34.
  9. Alm, James & Whittington, Leslie A., 1995. "Does the Income Tax Affect Marital Decisions?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(4), pages 565-72, December.
  10. Jonathan Gruber, 1996. "Disability Insurance Benefits and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 5866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. James Alm & Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Leslie A. Whittington, 1999. "Policy Watch: The Marriage Penalty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 193-204, Summer.
  12. Gelardi, Alexander M.G., 1996. "The Influence of Tax Law Changes on the Timing of Marriages: A Two-Country Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(1), pages 17-30, March.
  13. Robert Moffitt, 1994. "Welfare Effects on Female Headship with Area Effects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 621-636.
  14. Gary Solon, 1984. "Estimating Autocorrelations in Fixed-Effects Models," NBER Technical Working Papers 0032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
  16. Robert Moffitt & Robert Reville & Anne Winkler, 1998. "Beyond single mothers: Cohabitation and marriage in the AFDC program," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 35(3), pages 259-278, August.
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