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

Listed author(s):
  • Melissa S. Kearney
  • Riley Wilson
Registered author(s):

    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.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23408.

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    Date of creation: May 2017
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23408
    Note: CH EEE LS PE
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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.
    3. Tara Watson & Sara McLanahan, 2011. "Marriage Meets the Joneses: Relative Income, Identity, and Marital Status," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(3), pages 482-517.
    4. Michael F. Lovenheim & Kevin J. Mumford, 2013. "Do Family Wealth Shocks Affect Fertility Choices? Evidence from the Housing Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 464-475, May.
    5. Browning, Martin & Francois Bourguignon & Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Valerie Lechene, 1994. "Income and Outcomes: A Structural Model of Intrahousehold Allocation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1067-1096, December.
    6. 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.
    7. Autor, David & Dorn, David & Hanson, Gordon, 2017. "When Work Disappears: Manufacturing Decline and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Men," CEPR Discussion Papers 11878, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Alexander W. Bartik & Janet Currie & Michael Greenstone & Christopher R. Knittel, 2017. "The Local Economic and Welfare Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing," NBER Working Papers 23060, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jason M. Lindo, 2010. "Are Children Really Inferior Goods? Evidence from Displacement-Driven Income Shocks," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(2).
    10. Sathya Gopalakrishnan & H. Allen Klaiber, 2014. "Is the Shale Energy Boom a Bust for Nearby Residents? Evidence from Housing Values in Pennsylvania," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 96(1), pages 43-66.
    11. Lucija Muehlenbachs & Elisheba Spiller & Christopher Timmins, 2015. "The Housing Market Impacts of Shale Gas Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(12), pages 3633-3659, December.
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