DP3388 Waiting for Mr Right: Rising Inequality and Declining Marriage Rates

Author(s): Eric D Gould, M. Daniele Paserman
Publication Date: May 2002
Keyword(s): inequality, marriage, search
JEL(s): D31, J12, J31
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=3388

This Paper demonstrates that women search longer for their first or second husband in cities with higher male wage inequality, and analyses several explanations for this result. A causal link is established by showing that the results are robust to the inclusion of city fixed-effects and city-specific time trends, and by using inequality in the woman’s state of birth as a proxy for the local level of male inequality. Increasing male inequality explains about 30% of the marriage rate decline for women over the last few decades, and we show that this is not due to the effects of male inequality on female inequality, female labour supply, or decisions by women to re-locate, nor to the decisions of men in reaction to changes in their own wages. The evidence supports the idea that higher male inequality increases the option value for single women to search longer for a husband.