Earnings Influence Women’s Decision to Wed

Earnings Influence Women’s Decision to Wed
Earnings Influence Women’s Decision to Wed

A new study suggests that as their wages increase relative to men’s, female workers become less likely to marry.

The study takes a look at the shift in terms of economic incentives and finds that while factors such as increasing employment options and the growing ability for women to choose when or if they have children have certainly affected marriage choices, a shift in women’s wages may be among the most significant factors influencing the decision to pass up on marriage, reports an article on

In a recent paper, Na’ama Shenhav, a Ph.D. candidate at U.C. Davis, estimates that as much as 20% of the decline in the marriage rate over the past 30 years is attributable to women’s growing wages. More specifically, it’s the increase of women’s wages relative to their potential partners and the growing importance of women’s wages to overall household income that have contributed to women’s decisions to delay or forgo marriage.

The idea is that for many women, especially those at the lower end of the economic ladder, higher earnings allow them to be less financially reliant on others for things such as rent, groceries, utilities, or other basic necessities. That means that the choice to marry becomes less about financial need and more about other things, like love, social norms, religion, or the desire to start a family.

Talking about women’s wage growth at a time where progress on the gender-wage gap has been largely stagnant—it has remained steady for the past decade or so—can seem odd. But overall, the average weekly earnings of women who worked full-time have increased by about 30% since 1980.

Men’s and women’s wages actually converged quite a bit between 1980 and 2010, a period when many men saw declining wages as low-skill jobs evaporated, computers came to dominate the workplace, and women graduated from college at higher rates and increased their share of high-skill positions. Today, women on average make about 80% of what men make; in 1980, this figure was closer to 65%.

Why are more women opting out of marrying? Now, they have less of a financial incentive: The increases in their earnings relative to men’s mean that getting married doesn’t provide quite the same opportunity to improve one’s economic status in the way that it once did.

While the consequences of a declining marriage rate may still be murky, one thing seems pretty certain: Giving women more opportunities to work and paying them fair wages for that work provides them options that previous generations of women never had.