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The Accumulation of (Dis)advantage: Dynamics of the Wage Effect of Marriage over the Life Course

Sat, August 16, 8:30 to 10:10am, TBA

Abstract

Prior sociological studies tend to examine the wage effect of marriage as if it had remained invariant across the individual’s life. This paper extends current understandings of this issue by examining the long-term dynamics of the wage effect of marriage over the life course for men and women respectively. Applying fixed-effect models to 103,392 person-year observations of the NLSY79 data, I found that (1) marriage is associated with higher rate of wage growth for men, yet lower rate of wage growth for women. As a result, the relative wage advantage for married men over married women accumulates gradually over the life course; (2) the positive association between marriage and wage growth for men is mainly attributable to work experience while the negative association between marriage and wage growth for women is mainly attributable to childbearing; (3) the gender difference in the pattern of variations in the wage effect of marriage over the life course causes the gender wage gap to grow over the life time. And the two mechanisms account for 1/3 and 1/5, respectively, of the total growth in the gender wage gap due to marriage over a 20-year life span. Taken together, my findings suggest that studying the wage effect of marriage from the static approach may obscure the important life course process through which relative wage advantage and disadvantage between men and women are accumulated, as well as the gender differences in the mechanisms underlying such accumulation process.

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