Who Marries Differently-Aged Spouses? Earnings, Ability and Appearance
42 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2012
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 1960, 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, but this is due to the fact that women with differently-aged spouses work more hours not because they command higher wages. 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 markets, age difference, selection
JEL Classification: J12, J16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation