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Are Marriage-Related Taxes and Social Security Benefits Holding Back Female Labor Supply?

Author

Listed:
  • Margherita Borella
  • Mariacristina De Nardi
  • Fang Yang

Abstract

In the United States, both taxes and old age Social Security benefits depend on one's marital status and tend to discourage the labor supply of the secondary earner. To what extent are these provisions holding back female labor supply? We estimate a rich life cycle model of labor supply and savings for couples and singles using the method of simulated moments (MSM) on the 1945 and 1955 birth-year cohorts and use it to evaluate what would happen without these provisions. Our model matches well the life cycle profiles of labor market participation, hours, and savings for married and single people and generates plausible elasticities of labor supply. Eliminating marriage-related provisions drastically increases the participation of married women over their entire life cycle, reduces the participation of married men after age 60, and increases the savings of couples in both cohorts, including the later one, which has similar participation to that of more recent generations. If the resulting government surplus were used to lower income taxation, there would be large welfare gains for the vast majority of the population.

Suggested Citation

  • Margherita Borella & Mariacristina De Nardi & Fang Yang, 2019. "Are Marriage-Related Taxes and Social Security Benefits Holding Back Female Labor Supply?," NBER Working Papers 26097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26097
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Shinichi Nishiyama, 2019. "The joint labor supply decision of married couples and the U.S. Social Security pension system," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 31, pages 277-304, January.
    2. Borella, Margherita & De Nardi, Mariacristina & Yang, Fang, 2018. "The aggregate implications of gender and marriage," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 11(C), pages 6-26.
    3. Liebman, Jeffrey B. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P. & Seif, David G., 2009. "Labor supply responses to marginal Social Security benefits: Evidence from discontinuities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1208-1223, December.
    4. Itzik Fadlon & Torben Heien Nielsen, 2015. "Family Labor Supply Responses to Severe Health Shocks," NBER Working Papers 21352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Margherita Borella & Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French, 2018. "Who Receives Medicaid in Old Age? Rules and Reality," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 39(1), pages 65-93, March.
    6. Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Cristian Meghea, 2004. "The Effect of Social Security on Divorce and Remarriage Behavior," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2004-9, Center for Retirement Research, revised Apr 2004.
    7. Groneck, Max & Wallenius, Johanna, 2017. "It Sucks to Be Single! Marital Status and Redistribution of Social Security," SSE Working Paper Series in Economics 2017:1, Stockholm School of Economics.
    8. Alm, James & Whittington, Leslie A, 1999. "For Love or Money? The Impact of Income Taxes on Marriage," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 66(263), pages 297-316, August.
    9. Leslie A. Whittington & James Alm, 1997. "'Til Death or Taxes Do Us Part: The Effect of Income Taxation on Divorce," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(2), pages 388-412.
    10. David A. Love, 2010. "The Effects of Marital Status and Children on Savings and Portfolio Choice," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(1), pages 385-432, January.
    11. Dillender Marcus, 2016. "Social Security and Divorce," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(2), pages 931-971, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giulia Giupponi, 2019. "When Income Effects are Large: Labor Supply Responses and the Value of Welfare Transfers," CEP Discussion Papers dp1651, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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