Women, education, and earnings

From the job market paper of Miriam Gensowski, from University of Chicago:

Yet for education levels beyond the bachelor’s, higher education is associated with slightly lower earnings through marriage. The more highly educated women are less likely to be married, and thus lose the opportunity to bolster their own earnings with their husband’s. In the case of women with a Masters degree, the negative effect is clearly related to lower probability of being married – as Fig. 8 shows. A woman’s propensity to be married is much lower for women with a master’s as opposed to a bachelor’s degree or high school diploma. Most interestingly, the exceptional women who obtained a Doctorate degree did not suffer significantly in the marriage market, as one might have anticipated. Even though they were significantly less likely to be married, when they were married their husbands had higher-than-average earnings, so overall the impact of their high education on the returns to marriage are not statistically different from zero.

Of course there is a tricky causal issue.  If you truly feel like getting a Masters degree, that may be enough to indicate your marriage prospects are lower and refraining from the Masters may not much help.  We don’t know.

The paper is interesting throughout.  For instance it finds a high return to education even after adjusting for IQ and personality traits.  It ascertains which male personality types benefit the most from education.  It also finds that the personality trait of neuroticism increases male earnings if correlated with a Masters or Ph.d but not otherwise.


Here's a puzzling pattern I came across and maybe I can find something in the paper. I organized a panel of successful female economists at my work this spring for the local CSWEP chapter. I had women from section chief up to a Governor in a range of specialties. Guess what it turned out they were all married to economists. I bet a fair fraction of women who enter PhD programs unmarried end up marrying another PhD. In contrast, all the women in my program like me married to a non economist finished our degree remotely (which is not ideal). We kind of joked about it, but I'll be curious to see if this paper provides any explanations.

You are essentially describing how PhD programs are non-ideal. The cost side of a PhD is more personality and life circumstance than ability. The only question is why a flawed system could persist. I think it is because it puts all the risk and cost on the student.

"Of course there is a tricky causal issue. If you truly feel like getting a Masters degree, that may be enough to indicate your marriage prospects are lower and refraining from the Masters may not much help. We don’t know."

True, but curious to cite this potential self selection problem and not this one: If you truly feel like getting a Masters degree, then it may indicate that you are smart enough to refrain from marrying those bozo men that are available for marriage." Then the ultimate marriage rates would be lower and the conditional earnings for those that eventually marry would be higher, as the data apparently indicate.

Almost every master's degree holding woman I know is a teacher that did it for the automatic raise.

You must know a lot of people.

In other words, spiraling credential inflation is pricing women out of the marriage market.

Higher education = lower earnings? Are you kidding me? Is that really the point of this article? Ridiculous.

One thing to keep in mind is the anecdotal evidence that men are less likely to marry a woman who makes more money than they do. Along with this, it is important to note that even women who have master’s degrees may not make significantly more than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Doctors however are essentially (stereotypically) guaranteed to have a high income and thus it makes sense that they wouldn’t suffer the same fate that many women with high levels of education face. They reach and surpass a critical point, after which suitable mates are plentiful.
The reason suitable husbands are plentiful for women with doctorate degrees may be as the author put; their husbands (also) have an above average income. Additionally, I believe that many women with doctorate degrees might marry a man with an average annual income because that sort of man is drawn to her money.
I realize that I am assuming quite a lot here, but I believe that two big motivating factors for anyone are power and money. If a man can’t find a woman where he will have the (financial) power, then perhaps he can marry a doctor who has a lot of money.

Uh, I think you're confusing Doctors (MDs) with PhDs. Yeah PhDs in SOME fields earn high income but how is it sterotypical and guaranteed? All those people with PhDs in History, Literature, Sociology, and even many of the sciences rolling in the dough? Not really.

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