Does Specialization Explain Marriage Penalties and Premiums?


Killewald, Alexandra, and Margaret Gough. 2013. “Does Specialization Explain Marriage Penalties and Premiums?”. Annual Sociological Review 78:477-502.


Married men’s wage premium is often attributed to within-household specialization: men can devote more effort to wage-earning when their wives assume responsibility for household labor. We provide a comprehensive evaluation of the specialization hypothesis, arguing that, if specialization causes the male marriage premium, married women should experience wage losses. Furthermore, specialization by married parents should augment the motherhood penalty and the fatherhood premium for married as compared to unmarried parents. Using fixed-effects models and data from the NLSY79, we estimate within-gender differences in wages according to marital status and between-gender differences in the associations between marital status and wages. We then test whether specialization on time use, job traits, and tenure accounts for the observed associations. Results for women do not support the specialization hypothesis. Childless men and women both receive a marriage premium. Marriage augments the fatherhood premium but not the motherhood penalty. Changes in own and spousal employment hours, job traits, and tenure appear to benefit both married men and women, although men benefit more. Marriage changes men’s labor market behavior in ways that augment wages, but these changes do not appear to occur at the expense of women’s wages.

Last updated on 06/19/2014