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Is Marriage for White People? Incarceration, Unemployment, and the Racial Marriage Divide

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  • Caucutt, Elizabeth
  • Guner, Nezih
  • Rauh, Christopher

Abstract

The black-white differences in marriages in the US are striking. While 83% of white women between ages 25 and 54 were ever married in 2006, only 56% of black women were: a gap of 27 percentage points. Wilson (1987) suggests that the lack of marriageable black men due to incarceration and unemployment is responsible for low marriage rates among the black population. In this paper, we take a dynamic look at the Wilson Hypothesis. We argue that the current incarceration policies and labor market prospects make black men riskier spouses than white men. They are not only more likely to be, but also to become, unemployed or incarcerated than their white counterparts. We develop an equilibrium search model of marriage, divorce and labor supply that takes into account the transitions between employment, unemployment and prison for individuals by race, education, and gender. We estimate model parameters to be consistent with key statistics of the US economy. We then investigate how much of the racial divide in marriage is due to differences in the riskiness of potential spouses. We find that differences in incarceration and employment dynamics between black and white men can account for half of the existing black-white marriage gap in the data

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  • Caucutt, Elizabeth & Guner, Nezih & Rauh, Christopher, 2018. "Is Marriage for White People? Incarceration, Unemployment, and the Racial Marriage Divide," CEPR Discussion Papers 13275, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13275
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    3. Hero Ashman & Seth Neumuller, 2020. "Can Income Differences Explain the Racial Wealth Gap: A Quantitative Analysis," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 35, pages 220-239, January.
    4. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & Karen A. Kopecky, 2019. "The Wife's Protector: A Quantitative Theory Linking Contraceptive Technology with the Decline in Marriage," Working Papers wp2019_1912, CEMFI.
    5. Bastian Schulz & Fabian Siuda, 2020. "Marriage and Divorce: The Role of Labor Market Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 8508, CESifo.
    6. Jeanne Lafortune & Corinne Low, 2020. "Collateralized Marriage," NBER Working Papers 27210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico, 2020. "Bitter Sugar: Slavery and the Black Family," Department of Economics 0172, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    8. Maria Cancian, 2021. "APPAM Presidential Address: Reflections on Who Counts and Why it Matters," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 40(2), pages 324-347, March.
    9. Kartik B. Athreya & Grey Gordon & John Bailey Jones & Urvi Neelakantan, 2021. "Incarceration, Earnings, and Race," Working Paper 21-11`, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    incarceration; inequality; Marriage; race; unemployment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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