Aging And The Gains From Marriage

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Demography, Population, and Ecology
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Men and women have distinct marriage patterns over the lifecycle. In the contemporary USA, marriages for women are concentrated earlier in the lifecycle, whereas for men they are spread out later in the lifecycle. In particular, this means that men are more likely than women to get married in middle age and beyond. This difference is especially pronounced for remarriages — men are far more likely than women to remarry after the age of 30. As a result, there are far more single women than single men over the age of 40. This difference in remarriage patterns cannot be explained by the presence of children — in fact, among divorced women, those with children are more likely to remarry than those without. I investigate how the gains from marriage change over the lifecycle for men and women to understand whether these observed marriage patterns are driven by changes in the value of marriage, as opposed to being products of equilibrium sorting. I develop an equilibrium search and matching model that incorporates an aging process. This allows the model to capture both the lifecycle dynamics of marriage and divorce decisions as well as the impact of local population supplies on equilibrium matching outcomes. Using data from a large cross-sectional survey of the USA, I structurally estimate the model for 20 large city-level marriage markets. I recover an estimate of the gains from marriage, represented by a marital production function, in terms of the ages of husbands and wives. I find that marital output drops off twice as steeply with respect to female age, compared to male age. This suggests that women remarry less because the benefits are smaller, not just because of reduced availability of single men. Finally, I estimate a model in which people are characterized by their education and race in order to capture assortative mating along these dimensions. The results concerning age do not qualitatively change. I find large differences in marital output based on college attainment, but not race.

Petra Todd
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