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Marriage Meets the Joneses: Relative Income, Identity, and Marital Status

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Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of relative income on marriage. Accounting flexibly for absolute income, the ratio between a man's income and a local reference group median is a strong predictor of marital status, but only for low-income men. Relative income affects marriage even among those living with a partner. A ten percent higher reference group income is associated with a two percent reduction in marriage. We propose an identity model to explain the results.

Suggested Citation

  • Tara Watson & Sara McLanahan, 2010. "Marriage Meets the Joneses: Relative Income, Identity, and Marital Status," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  • Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2010-06
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    Cited by:

    1. Marianne Bertrand & Emir Kamenica & Jessica Pan, 2015. "Gender Identity and Relative Income within Households," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 571-614.
    2. Phil Lewis & Bilal Rafi, 2014. "Earnings of Indian Male Migrants in the Australian Labour Market," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 17(3), pages 257-275.
    3. Erzsébet Bukodi, 2012. "The relationship between work history and partnership formation in cohorts of British men born in 1958 and 1970," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 66(2), pages 123-145, July.
    4. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2014. "Income Inequality and Early Nonmarital Childbearing," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(1), pages 1-31.
    5. Joan Costa-Font & Frank Cowell, 2015. "Social Identity And Redistributive Preferences: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(2), pages 357-374, April.
    6. Martha Bailey & Olga Malkova & Zoë M. McLaren, 2017. "Does Parents' Access to Family Planning Increase Children's Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X," Working Papers 2017-083, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    7. 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.
    8. Schneider, Daniel & Hastings, Orestes P., 2015. "Socio-Economic Variation in the Effect of Economic Conditions on Marriage and Non-marital Fertility: Evidence from the Great Recession," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt52x1c6dj, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    9. Martha J. Bailey & Susan M. Dynarski, 2011. "Gains and Gaps: Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion," NBER Working Papers 17633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. repec:spr:demogr:v:55:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s13524-018-0651-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2016. "Income Inequality, Social Mobility, and the Decision to Drop Out of High School," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(1 (Spring), pages 333-396.
    12. Daniel Schneider & Orestes Hastings, 2015. "Socioeconomic Variation in the Effect of Economic Conditions on Marriage and Nonmarital Fertility in the United States: Evidence From the Great Recession," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(6), pages 1893-1915, December.
    13. Martha J. Bailey & Olga Malkova & Zoë M. McLaren, 2017. "Does Parents’ Access to Family Planning Increase Children’s Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X," NBER Working Papers 23971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Matthew J. Hill, 2014. "Love in the time of the depression: The effect of economic conditions on marriage in the Great Depression," Economics Working Papers 1454, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    15. Chen, Xi & Kanbur, Ravi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Peer effects, risk pooling, and status seeking: What explains gift spending escalation in rural China?," IFPRI discussion papers 1151, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    16. Macunovich, Diane J., 2011. "Re-Visiting the Easterlin Hypothesis: Marriage in the U.S. 1968-2010," IZA Discussion Papers 5886, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Laura Tach & Kathryn Edin, 2013. "The Compositional and Institutional Sources of Union Dissolution for Married and Unmarried Parents in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(5), pages 1789-1818, October.
    18. Hederos Eriksson, Karin & Stenberg, Anders, 2015. "Gender Identity and Relative Income within Households: Evidence from Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 9533, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Martha J. Bailey & Melanie Guldi & Brad J. Hershbein, 2014. "Is There a Case for a "Second Demographic Transition"? Three Distinctive Features of the Post-1960 U.S. Fertility Decline," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 273-312 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Martha J. Bailey & Olga Malkova & Zoe M. McLaren, 2017. "Does Parents’ Access To Family Planning Increase Children’S Opportunities? Evidence From The War On Poverty And The Early Years Of Title X," Working Papers 17-67, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    21. Wen-Chun Chang, 2013. "Climbing up the Social Ladders: Identity, Relative Income, and Subjective Well-being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(1), pages 513-535, August.
    22. Martha J. Bailey & Jason M. Lindo, 2017. "Access and Use of Contraception and Its Effects on Women’s Outcomes in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 23465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    marriage; relative income; inequality; identity;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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