Do Young Women trade Jobs for Marriage? A Skeptical View

By Myra H. Strober
Feminist Economist
February1995 Vol. 1 Issue 1 Pages 197-205.

This paper takes a skeptical view of the theory that the slight decline in young women’s labor-force participation from 1985 to 1990 can be explained by the fact that there are fewer women now in their early twenties than there are men in their late twenties so that women currently have more bargaining power in the marriage market than men do.The paper argues that the assumption behind this theory, that for women marriage and employment are substitutes, is outmoded. It also contends that the theory leaves out the importance of full-time schooling as an activity alternative to employment and that in fact the increase in full-time schooling among young women has been much greater than the slight decrease in their labor-force participation.Several questions are raised about the statistical test of the theory and also about the reasons why the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article on the slight decline in young women’s labor-force participation and featured the marriage market theory as an explanation for this purported new trend.