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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Past research has established a marital wage premium among men, and more recently, among women of the baby boom generation. It is unknown whether: 1) the marriage premium holds among more recent cohorts of men and women, 2) it differs by intensity of work hours among husbands and wives, and 3) cohabiters receive wage bonuses. Using fixed-effects models and data from the 1979-1989 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and the 1997-2010 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), this paper compares cohort differences in the gendered marriage premium. While both women and men receive marriage premiums and these premiums are larger for more recent cohorts, men’s premiums are consistently higher and have doubled from the late baby boomers cohort (NLSY79) to the late Generation X (Gen X) cohort (NLSY97). While there was no wage premium for cohabitation among baby boom cohort women, I observe a premium among Gen X men and women. Household specialization matters: while among baby-boomers the marriage premium did not vary by household type, among the Gen X cohort men’s marriage premium is significantly larger among male breadwinner households, and surprisingly, I find marriage penalties for men in female-breadwinner households. Similarly, Gen X female breadwinners and female dual-earners receive the marriage premium while Gen X women in male-breadwinner households experience marriage penalty. In addition, the more highly educated receive larger marital bonuses.


First Advisor

Michelle J. Budig

Second Advisor

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

Third Advisor

Jennifer Hickes Lundquist