The Effect of Declining Marriage Prospects on Young Men's Labor-Force Participation Rate

65 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2021 Last revised: 19 Aug 2021

Date Written: August 1, 2021

Abstract

Why have so many young men left the U.S. workforce? This paper develops a model in which men earn a marriage market return on past employment. It hypothesizes that this return declined as gender-role-specialized marriage became a less efficient arrangement. It establishes causal evidence for this hypothesis by identifying two shocks that lowered the returns to gender role specialization: growth in female employment opportunities across U.S. commuting zones from 1980-2016, and unilateral divorce regime transitions across U.S. states in the 1970s. These shocks reduce marriage and labor-force participation (LFP) among young men without college and can account for 1/4 of their long-run LFP decline. Policy implications of these results are discussed.

Keywords: labor-force participation, marriage market, human capital investment, bargaining power, household specialization, Bartik shock, unilateral divorce

JEL Classification: E24, J12, J21, J22, J24

Suggested Citation

Binder, Ariel, The Effect of Declining Marriage Prospects on Young Men's Labor-Force Participation Rate (August 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3795585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3795585

Ariel Binder (Contact Author)

U.S. Census Bureau ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
United States

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