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Family Migration and the Relative Earnings of Husbands and Wives

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This article focuses primarily on determining the economic consequences of family migration for husbands and wives in matched married-couple families, using data from waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households. The analysis is designed to determine whether or not the return to migration for husbands and wives is similarly affected by their relative earning potential, as predicted by the human-capital model of migration. The study's secondary contributions include its estimation of the effect of moving on earnings for both husbands and wives within matched married-couple families and its avoidance of the problems of self-selection bias and unobserved variable bias associated with cross-sectional models by using panel-data methods. The results indicate—as predicted by the gender-role model of family migration—that the effect of family migration on individual earnings is largely a function of gender: family migration causes an increase in the husband's income and no change in the wife's income even if a wife has a greater earning potential than her husband. Thus, the study does not support the human-capital argument—that family migration decisions are egalitarian and symmetrical, such that each spouse's absolute and relative earning power is given equal weight in the migration decision. This research makes a strong statement that the gender-role model of family migration is of greater utility for understanding family migration behavior than the human-capital model of family migration.
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Keywords: family; gender, migration

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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