When Work Disappears: Manufacturing Decline and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Men

59 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2017

See all articles by David H. Autor

David H. Autor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

David Dorn

University of Zurich - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Gordon H. Hanson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: February 2017

Abstract

The structure of marriage and child-rearing in U.S. households has undergone two marked shifts in the last three decades: a steep decline in the prevalence of marriage among young adults, and a sharp rise in the fraction of children born to unmarried mothers or living in single-headed households. A potential contributor to both phenomena is the declining labor-market opportunities faced by males, which make them less valuable as marital partners. We exploit large scale, plausibly exogenous labor-demand shocks stemming from rising international manufacturing competition to test how shifts in the supply of young "marriageable" males affect marriage, fertility and children's living circumstances. Trade shocks to manufacturing industries have particularly negative impacts on the labor market prospects of men and degrade their marriage-market value along multiple dimensions: diminishing their relative earnings - particularly at the lower segment of the distribution - reducing their physical availability in trade-impacted labor markets, and increasing their participation in risky and damaging behaviors. As predicted by a simple model of marital decision-making under uncertainty, we document that adverse shocks to the supply of "marriageable" men reduce the prevalence of marriage and lower fertility but raise the fraction of children born to young and unwed mothers and living in in poor single-parent households. The falling marriage-market value of young men appears to be a quantitatively important contributor to the rising.

Keywords: Fertility, Household Structure, import competition, Local Labor Markets, Marriage Market, Single-Parent Families, Trade Flows

JEL Classification: F16, J12, J13, J21, J23

Suggested Citation

Autor, David H. and Dorn, David and Hanson, Gordon H., When Work Disappears: Manufacturing Decline and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Men (February 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11878. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2924739

David H. Autor (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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David Dorn

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

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Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Gordon H. Hanson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

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