Not just a piece of paper
It is important first to respond directly to the idea that marriage is just a piece of paper. When I was conducting interviews in New York City back in 2005-2006, I heard over and over again from a lot of young adults, “It is just a piece of paper. It doesn’t really matter.” What they did not realize is that the science is telling us a very different story about how marriage affects women and especially men.
Men are transformed in a number of ways. We will focus here primarily on the economic story, but it is also the case that when men get married, they spend less time with their friends, their buddies, and they spend more time with kin. They attend bars and taverns less and they attend church more in the wake of getting married and having a family.
We can begin first by thinking about work effort, and one admittedly crude indicator of effort is work hours. What we see is that married men, both when they are in the 28-30 years old stage and the mid-40s stage, work about 400+ hours more per year than their single peers with a similar educational, racial, and ethnic background. But it is not just that they are working more; they are working more strategically and working smarter when they are married compared to being single.
Two indicators of this come from the work of Elizabeth Gorman, a sociologist who did this research when she was at Harvard. What she finds is that married men are much less likely to quit their job until they have lined up a new job to jump to. By contrast, the single guys, if they are not happy with their work, will quit that job and then try to find something new. Of course, the first strategy is much more prudent than the second.
Another important point to make here is that married men are much less likely to get fired. There is something about their style of work or maybe the fact that they seem to be more responsible when they are married. What Gorman finds is that these patterns in the data persist even after you control for a lot of background characteristics in the men themselves, things like their educational background, their race, their ethnicity, etc. Something about marriage seems to be making men behave in a more strategic fashion in today’s workforce. This all adds up in real dollar terms. What we see is that married men make about $16,000 more than their single peers personally, both as young adults and as middle-aged adults.
There is a lot of discussion today about this issue of marriage and class in America. One might wonder, “Well, is this story applicable to men who don’t have college degrees? There must be something about being college educated and being more affluent connecting nicely with marriage in ways that are helping to drive the story.” The answer to that question is still yes.
In fact, not only do you see the same story among men who do not have college degrees, but in some ways, the premium is a little bit bigger for the guys who do not have a college degree compared to guys who do have a college degree. Marriage is valuable for men up and down the economic ladder. It is also valuable for men across racial and ethnic lines. There is a marriage premium for African American men, and the report shows the same basic story for Hispanics in America. Marriage benefits men across racial, ethnic, and class lines today in our country.
The pushback against marriage
When you make this claim in the public square today, if you read about it on Slate or in the Washington Post or some other venue, you are going to get a lot of pushback. This is not a story people want to hear in some sectors of our society. One of the arguments that they will respond with is, “You know what? This is all about selection. There is something about these guys, the marrying kind (if you will), that makes them better men. They are better husbands, they are better fathers, they are better workers, and it is these underlying traits, not marriage per se, that help to account for these findings.”
There are problems with this idea, and two empirical examples suggest that it is not only about selection. The first example is the longitudinal research done by Steven Nock at the University of Virginia. Nock tracked men over time and found that they increase their hours and increase their income in the wake of getting married and that they do better compared to their peers who are not getting married.
Interestingly, he also found that getting divorced reduces men’s hours and reduces men’s income. Moving into marriage and moving out of marriage for men is linked to economic changes. A second exmaple is a study which looked at trends in Minnesota and found that married male identical twins earned about 26% more compared to thir twins who had not married. Once again, this evidence pushes back against the suggestion that the wage premium is all about selection.
READ MORE: http://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/marriage-makes-men-better-the-economic-benefits-of-settling-down/18645