Deconstructing Specialization: Unpaid Domestic Tasks and Marriage Premia among U.S. Men

Lynn Prince Cooke, University of Bath
Jennifer L. Hook, University of Southern California

Economists theorize that men’s marriage premium derives in part from gender specialization in household paid and unpaid labor. We argue that in the current earnings structure, specialization is feasible only for the highest-earning men. In contrast, lower-earning men continue to benefit from marriage if they contribute more to unpaid tasks. We pool 2010-12 American Time Use Survey data and use semi-parametric regressions to estimate the impact of unpaid work at different percentiles of men’s earnings distribution. At no percentile does the inclusion of men’s unpaid time significantly alter their net marriage premium. Greater time in nonroutine housework predicts a further earnings premium for men in the lower quartile of the earnings distribution. At the median, men’s greater time in both nonroutine housework and childcare predicts greater earnings. Partnered men’s greater productivity in family work therefore predicts greater market earnings for average and lower-earning men.

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Presented in Session 235: Consequences of Domestic Gender Equality