The Accumulation of (Dis)advantage: The Intersection of Gender and Race in the Long-Term Wage Effect of Marriage

Siwei Cheng

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A sizable literature examines whether and why marriage affects men’s and women’s wages. This study advances current research in two ways. First, whereas most prior studies treat the effect of marriage as time-invariant, I examine how the wage effect of marriage unfolds over the life course. Second, whereas prior work often focuses on the population-average effect of marriage or is limited to some particular gender or racial group, I examine the intersection of gender and race in the effect of marriage. Analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, I find that the marriage wage premium grows steadily and at a similar pace among white and black men. The marriage wage premium declines toward negative among white women, yet it grows steadily among black women. Furthermore, measured work experience explains a substantial amount of the wage premium among black men, yet it has little explanatory power among white men, pointing to the importance of unobserved factors in white men’s marriage premium. Changes in work experience negatively affect married white women’s wages, yet they positively affect married black women’s wages, pointing to the important differences between black and white families.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)29-56
    Number of pages28
    JournalAmerican sociological review
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


    • gender
    • life course
    • marriage premium
    • race
    • wage trajectory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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