Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New economics of marriage

That's the title of a Pew Research Center report released today that examines trends in working, education, marriage, and household income across several decades. What they're referring to is the historic rise of women's education and earnings relative to men. Although there still are wage disparities between the sexes, within the age cohort aged 30-44, women now have more education than men.

This has created significant differences in trend income growth across groups according to marriage patterns. As you might expect, married couples have considerably higher household income than singles, and that gap has been widening over time. An article in the Times titled "More Men Marrying Wealthier Wives discusses all this from a popular-media perspective. The way the title gets it right is that there surely is some selection afoot: married couples today, when divorce is common, are probably a more select group than they were decades ago. One hypothesis that fits the data (and the anecdotes in the Times story) is that marriage has become relatively more common among couples who jointly have high education, and thus high earnings, and less among mismatched couples.