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The Accumulation of (Dis)advantage: The Intersection of Gender and Race in the Long Term Wage Effect of Marriage

May 2016

Siwei Cheng


This article conducts a comprehensive analysis on the intersection of gender and race in the total long-term effect of marriage as well as its underlying mechanisms. Provided by individual longitudinal data via the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979-2010, the author investigates separately for each gender-race subgroup, the extent to which the total effect of marriage is attributed to childbearing and work experience. The author finds that marriage accelerates wage growth for men yet limits wage growth for women cumulatively over the life course. The results indicate that black men receive a greater wage premium than white men at the time of marriage, but over time their wages increase are similarly; for women, the wage effects of marriage differ significantly, showing that white women experience a decreasing wage premium and an increasing wage penalty after marriage, whereas black women experience a steadily growing wage premium after getting married.

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Policy Implications

This article can be useful in understanding the possible economic and sociological effects of the marriage wage premium and how they differ across gender-race subgroups. The intersection of gender and race in potential mechanisms such as childbearing and work experience that may lead to the wage effect of marriage illuminates the complex and heterogeneous nature of marriage. Other methods were discussed such as the marriage wage premium and the life-course wage trajectory.

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