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Male Wage Inequality and Marital Dissolution: Is There a Link?

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  • Bellou, Andriana

    () (University of Montreal)

Abstract

After almost a century-long pattern of rising marital instability, divorce rates leveled off in 1980 and have been declining ever since. The timing of deceleration and decline in the rates of marital disruption interestingly coincides with a period of substantial growth in wage inequality. This paper establishes a connection between the two phenomena and explores potential explanations for the underlying link. Using individual data on 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 marital relationship. 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 for this relationship are assessed: changes in spousal labor supplies, female wage inequality, income uncertainty, social capital as well as a hypothesis of "on-the-marriage" search. The results are most supportive of the search interpretation. No strong quantitative support was found for the remaining mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Bellou, Andriana, 2013. "Male Wage Inequality and Marital Dissolution: Is There a Link?," IZA Discussion Papers 7331, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7331
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    wage inequality; divorce;

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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