The wage gap between men and women is no secret. The wage gap between white men and black men isn’t a secret either. But new research is now shedding light on a wage gap that hasn’t been given nearly the same kind of attention as the others: the wage gap between married and unmarried men. According to recent data from the St. Louis Fed married men outpace single men, single women, and married women in terms of salary over the course of a career.
The study found that by the time they reach around 40 years old, employed married men are making around $80,000 a year. Unmarried men, at the same age, are making something closer to $50,000. Interestingly, the separation in terms of wages only gets more pronounced the older men get. While single versus married men in their early 20’s are making a comparable amount of money, the gap becomes enormous by their late 20’s and early 30’s.
What’s telling is the way that marriage actually has a relatively small effect on the wage gaps between women. For women, just like with men, the late 20’s to early 30’s period is when the wage gap between those who are married and unmarried becomes really evident. The only difference is that there is way less money is involved. For example, 40-year-old married women are making around $50,000 annually, while single women make closer to $40,000 around the same age. By the look of it, economically, being married only works in the favor of married men. In fact, the wage gap between single men and single women is a lot more marginal.
According to Guillaume Vandenbroucke, a research officer at the Fed, the questions we’ve been asking about the gender wage gap may be misplaced. He notes that the fact that single men and women make similar wages isn’t “consistent with the view that the gender wage gap results from women having children earlier in life and losing ground in human capital accumulation relative to men.” He also points out that these findings could also just mean that people who make less stay single longer while those who make more don’t.
“The gender wage gap remains a complicated topic,” Vandenbroucke wrote in the summary. “But progress may come from asking different questions: not just why women earn less than men (although not compared with single men), but also why married men earn so much more than everyone else.”