Spousal Mobility and Earnings

36 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2007

See all articles by Terra McKinnish

Terra McKinnish

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2007


In the substantial literature on the relationship between migration and earnings, an important finding has been that the earnings of married women typically decrease with a move while the earnings of married men often increase. This is consistent with the story that married women are more likely to act as the "trailing spouse" or to be a "tied-mover." This paper considers a related but unexplored question: what is the effect of having an occupation that is associated with frequent migration on the migration decisions of your household and on the earnings of your spouse? How do these effects differ between men and women?

The Public Use Micro-data Sample from the 2000 Decennial Census is used to calculate 5-year cross-state migration rates by occupation and education. The effects of these occupational mobility measures are analyzed separately for four groups of couples: both have college degrees ("power couples"), only the husband has a college degree, only the wife has a college degree, and neither has a college degree. Results indicate that the mobility rates in both the husband's and wife's occupations affect the household migration decision, but mobility in the husband's occupation matters considerably more. Among never-married individuals with college degrees, however, men and women are equally responsive to occupation mobility in their migration behavior.

The earnings analysis uses occupation fixed-effects and average wage in occupation-education class to control for substantial heterogeneity in earnings potential. For couples in which the husband has a college degree, regardless of wife's education, wife's mobility has a positive effect on husband's earnings, but husband's mobility has an even larger, significant negative effect on wife's earnings. Among couples in which only the wife has a college degree, these effects are considerably dampened.

Keywords: migration, marriage, dual-earner couples, occupation

JEL Classification: J16, R23

Suggested Citation

McKinnish, Terra, Spousal Mobility and Earnings (January 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=959026 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.959026

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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