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WMM Knowles 2012 | John A. Knowles

Why are Married Men Working So Much?


Are macro-economists mistaken in ignoring bargaining between spouses? This paper argues that models of intra-household allocation could be useful for understanding aggregate labor supply trends in the US since the 1970s. A simple calculation suggests that with standard preferences, the unitary model predicts a 19% decline in married-male labor supply in response to the narrowing of the gender gap in wages since the 1970s. However married-men's paid labor remained stationary over the period from the mid 1970s to the recession of 2001. This paper develops and calibrates to US time-use survey data a model of marital bargaining in which time allocations are determined jointly with equilibrium marriage and divorce rates. The results suggest that bargaining effects raised married men's labor supply by about 2.1 weekly hours over the period, and reduced that of married women by 2.7 hours. Bargaining therefore has a relatively small impact on aggregate labor supply, but is critical for trends in female labor supply. Also, the narrowing of the gender wage gap is found to account for a 1.5 hour increase in aggregate labor supply.