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Effects of Employment on Marriage: Evidence from a Randomized Study of the Job Corps Program. Final Report.

Publication Year: 
2008
Personal Author: 
Mamun, Arif.
Corporate Author: 
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Administration for Children and Families.
Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.
Technical Report
Page Count: 
65
Journal Title: 
MPR Reference No.: 8935162.

This report explores the effects of employment-related outcomes (namely, average hours worked per week and average earnings per week) on the likelihood of marriage. The key challenge in estimating the effects of various employment-related outcomes on men's or women's likelihood of marriage is to account for the possibility that family status may affect employment outcomes (reverse causation) and that men and women with particular unobserved traits that make them more likely to be successful in the labor market may be more likely to marry (selection). Burstein (2007) in a recent article noted that in order to meet this challenge "one would need to randomly assign single men to a treatment group that had the effect of increasing their employment and earnings, and then look for the impact on their marital union formation." This report applies precisely that strategy to generate consistent estimates of the effects of men's and women's employment and earnings on their likelihood of marriage.
Data from an experimental evaluation of the Job Corps program, which found statistically significant positive effects on the employment outcomes of both male and female participants, have been the basis for generating the estimates in this report. The random assignment of eligible applicants to program and control groups created the opportunity for a source of variation in employment and earnings that is independent of family structure or the background characteristics of program participants. By applying the instrumental variable (IV) method, we used this exogenous variation in employment and earnings created by the Job Corps intervention to identify causal effects of these employment-related outcomes on the likelihood of marriage for disadvantaged individuals in their twenties.

The study findings underscore the importance of addressing potential selection bias in estimating the effects of employment and earnings on likelihood of marriage. It provides clear evidence of a positive effect of employment and earnings on the likelihood of marriage for women, but no significant effect on the likelihood of marriage for men. Since the findings are based on a relatively young sample of men and women, in future research it would be important to examine the effect of employment on marriage on older subjects who have had a longer period of time, overall, to make marital transitions. Future research may also be directed towards an assessment of the marriage-effectof social services that are focused on improving employment related outcomes vis-à-vis those services that are focused on strengthening family related outcomes of economically disadvantaged people. (Author abstract)

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