Who Marries Differently-Aged Spouses? Earnings, Ability and Appearance

40 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2011 Last revised: 22 Jun 2011

See all articles by Hani Mansour

Hani Mansour

University of Colorado at Denver - Department of Economics

Terra McKinnish

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 26, 2011

Abstract

In direct contrast to conventional wisdom and most economic models of gender differences in age of marriage, we present robust evidence that men and women who are married to differently-aged spouses are negatively selected. Earnings analysis of married couples in the 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 Decennial Censuses finds that male earnings decrease with within-couple age difference, regardless of whether the man is older or younger than his wife. In contrast, female earnings increase with within-couple age difference. We argue and present evidence that women in differently-aged couples have higher earnings not because of positive selection, but because their hours of work increase in response to partnering with a lower earning man. We test for negative selection into differently-aged couples using three measures: average earnings per hour in occupation using Census data, cognitive skills assessments from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort (NLSY79), and measures of physical appearance from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The point estimates indicate negative selection on all of these characteristics, although statistical significance varies by outcome and sample.

Keywords: Marriage, Age Difference, Marital Sorting, Assortive Matching

JEL Classification: J12

Suggested Citation

Mansour, Hani and McKinnish, Terra, Who Marries Differently-Aged Spouses? Earnings, Ability and Appearance (April 26, 2011). DIW Berlin Discussion Paper No. 1123. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1823746 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1823746

Hani Mansour

University of Colorado at Denver - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 181
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80218
United States

Terra McKinnish (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics ( email )

Campus Box 256
Boulder, CO 80309-0256
United States

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