Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Cohort Differences and the Marriage Premium: Emergence of Gender-Neutral Household Specialization Effects

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Cohort Differences and the Marriage Premium: Emergence of Gender-Neutral Household Specialization Effects

Article excerpt

The gendered world of paid work, unpaid work, and family formation was changing when Gary Becker published A Treatise on the Family in 1981. Married women with children were entering the labor force en masse, fertility was declining after the baby boom, and women's paid work hours were rising (Wang et al., 2013). Yet bread-winning husbands and care-giving wives were still normative because most married men did not have other breadwinners in their households in the 1970s. In this context, the efficiency of Becker's gendered household specialization argument-that it is rational for men to maximize on their comparative advantage for market work and for women to maximize on their comparative advantage for household production-was still plausible. Research on the male marriage premium in heterosexual relationships has broadly drawn on Becker's thesis to explain why men's wages increase with marriage (Chun & Lee, 2001; Dalmia, Kelly, & Sicilian, 2014; Dougherty, 2006; Gray, 1997; Oppenheimer, Kalmijn, & Lim, 1997; Sweeney, 2002; Xie, Raymo, Goyette, & Thornton, 2003). Similarly, the studies of the negative/null impact of marriage on women's wages are in line with his thesis (Anderson, Binder, & Krause, 2003; Loughran & Zissimopoulos, 2009; Van der Klaauw, 1996), although some evidence suggests a marriage premium for women (Budig & England, 2001; Dougherty, 2006; Killewald & Gough, 2013). All of these studies examined the baby boom cohort, those born from 1947 to 1964 and who first married in the mid-1960s to early 1990s. These studies found male marriage premiums ranging from more than 11% in ordinary least squares (OLS) models (Chun & Lee, 2001; Dougherty, 2006; Gray, 1997; Hersch & Stratton, 2000; Korenman & Neumark, 1992; Loh, 1996) to around 7% in fixed-effects models (Dougherty, 2006; Killewald & Gough, 2013; Korenman & Neumark, 1992). Studies of baby boom women found no marriage premium (Anderson et al., 2003; Loughran & Zissimopoulos, 2009) or small premiums in fixed-effects models of roughly 3% (Budig & England, 2001; Dougherty, 2006; Killewald & Gough, 2013).

Since the early 1980s, demographic shifts eroded the gains to household specialization and the pattern of gendered comparative advantages in market and nonmarket work. These shifts included a reversal in the gender gap in educational attainment (Buchmann & DiPrete, 2006), older ages at first marriage (Elliott, Kristy, Matthew, & Rose, 2012), rising childlessness (Lundquist, Budig, & Curtis, 2009), and women's more continuous employment around the birth of a child (Hollister & Smith, 2014). Cultural practices regarding the division of labor at home also changed. Women's participation in paid work and men's involvement in family responsibilities are increasingly considered the normative ideal (Brewster & Padavic, 2000). Time-use studies showed that increases in women's paid work and men's unpaid work weakened the level of gendered specialization, suggesting that newer cohorts are more characterized by divisions of household labor that do not always follow gender-traditional specialization (Robinson & Godbey, 1999). In a new study, Jacobs and Gerson (2016) found greater approval for fathers to specialize in caregiving when their job and child-care conditions were unfavorable, along with greater support for mothers to specialize in employment when their job and child-care conditions were favorable, even when a mother's earnings were not needed by the family. These trends suggest that gender-traditional household specialization may be less predictive of marriage premiums among the newest cohort of young Americans engaged in family formation. To date, however, no study has examined the marriage premium among the millennial cohort.

Against this backdrop, our contributions are threefold. First, we compare the impact of marriage on wages for two cohorts of young men and women: the late baby boomer cohort (born 1957-1965) represented by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), and the early millennial cohort (born 1980-1984), represented by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97). …

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