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The University of Southampton
EconomicsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

1208 Why Are Married Men Working So Much? Relative Wages, Labour Supply and the Decline of Marrage (J. Knowles)

Title: Why are married men working so much? Relative wages, labour supply and the decline of marriage

Author John Knowles (University of Southampton)

Paper number 1208


Are macro-economists mistaken in ignoring bargaining between spouses? This paper argues that models of intra-household allocation could be useful for understanding aggregate labour supply trends in the US since the 1970s. A simple calculation suggests that with standard preferences, the unitary model predicts a 19% decline in married-male labour supply in response to the narrowing of the gender gap in wages since the 1970s. However, married-men's paid labour remained stationary over the period from the mid 1970s to the recession in 2001. This paper develops and calibrates to US time-use survey data a model of marital bargaining in which time allocations are determined jointly with equilibrium marriage and divorce rates. The results suggest that bargaining effects raised married men's labour supply by about 2.1 weekly hours over the period, and reduced that of married women by 2.7 hours. While relative wage growth can account for all of the increase in married women's hours over the period, the decline in marriage rates over the same period appears to be unrelated to wages: most of the marital decline is due to forces outside the model, although the declining price of labour-saving home equipment appears to play a significant role.

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