Marriage, Employment and Inequality of Women's Lifetime Earned Income Evidence from Survey Responses

Chinhui Juhn, Kristin McCue

NBER Retirement Research Center Paper No. NB 11-07
Issued in September 2011

Using Current Population Surveys and Survey of Income and Program Participation data matched to Social Security earnings records, we summarize changes in marital histories for different birth cohorts of women and project the associated changes in women's own lifetime earnings and in spousal earnings. We find that the gap in lifetime earnings between married and single women appears to have essentially closed for less educated women while a small differential still exists for more educated women. The earnings gap across education categories has increased rapidly in terms of women's own lifetime earnings. The level of earnings inequality across education categories is higher when marriage and husbands' earnings is taken into account although the increase is less pronounced. Lifetime earnings of married college educated women diverged most dramatically from those of less educated single women.

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