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Male Earnings, Marriageable Men, and Nonmarital Fertility: Evidence from the Fracking Boom

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  • Melissa S. Kearney
  • Riley Wilson

Abstract

There has been a well-documented retreat from marriage among less educated individuals in the U.S. and non-marital childbearing has become the norm among young mothers and mothers with low levels of education. One hypothesis is that the declining economic position of men in these populations is at least partially responsible for these trends. That leads to the reverse hypothesis that an increase in potential earnings of less-educated men would correspondingly lead to an increase in marriage and a reduction in non-marital births. To investigate this possibility, we empirically exploit the positive economic shock associated with localized “fracking booms” throughout the U.S. in recent decades. We confirm that these localized fracking booms led to increased wages for non-college-educated men. A reduced form analysis reveals that in response to local-area fracking production, both marital and non-marital births increase and there is no evidence of an increase in marriage rates. The pattern of results is consistent with positive income effects on births, but no associated increase in marriage. We compare our findings to the family formation response to the Appalachian coal boom experience of the 1970s and 1980s, when it appears that marital births and marriage rates increased, but non-marital births did not. This contrast potentially suggests important interactions between economic forces and social context.

Suggested Citation

  • Melissa S. Kearney & Riley Wilson, 2017. "Male Earnings, Marriageable Men, and Nonmarital Fertility: Evidence from the Fracking Boom," NBER Working Papers 23408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23408
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dettling, Lisa J. & Kearney, Melissa S., 2014. "House prices and birth rates: The impact of the real estate market on the decision to have a baby," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 82-100.
    2. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ayushi Narayan, 2015. "Who Needs a Fracking Education? The Educational Response to Low-Skill Biased Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 21359, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Ming Ching Luoh, 2010. "Male Incarceration, the Marriage Market, and Female Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(3), pages 614-627, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Autor & David Dorn & Gordon Hanson, 2017. "When Work Disappears: Manufacturing Decline and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Young Men," NBER Working Papers 23173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Vellore Arthi & Brian Beach & W. Walker Hanlon, 2017. "Estimating the Recession-Mortality Relationship when Migration Matters," NBER Working Papers 23507, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis

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