Women's Relative Earnings and Cohabiting Couples' Union Transitions

Patrick Ishizuka, Princeton University

Women’s labor market participation and earnings increased dramatically in recent decades, resulting in absolute gains and increases in earnings relative to spouses and potential spouses. Theoretically and empirically, however, the consequences of changes in women’s relative earnings for marriage behavior are unclear. Prior studies of cohabitors’ union transitions and economic characteristics have relied on small or non-representative samples, or analyses of earlier cohorts. Using nationally representative longitudinal data with monthly income, household composition, and marital status information from panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation over the period 1996 - 2012, I test hypotheses relating to women’s relative earnings and transitions from cohabitation to marriage and union dissolution using discrete time event history logistic regression models. I use a flexible functional form to model the relationship between union transitions and women’s relative earnings, evaluating whether and how women’s relative earnings influence cohabiting couples’ union transitions.

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Presented in Session 52: Gender in Families