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Manning Up and Womaning Down: How Husbands and Wives Report Earnings When She Earns More

Institute Working Paper 28 | Revised December 10, 2019

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Authors

Marta Murray-Close U.S. Census Bureau

Manning Up and Womaning Down: How Husbands and Wives Report Earnings When She Earns More

Abstract

To infer social preferences regarding the relative earnings of spouses, we use measurement error in the earnings reported for married couples in the Current Population Survey. We compare the earnings reported for husbands and wives in the survey with their “true” earnings as reported by their employers to tax authorities. Compared with couples where the wife earns just less than the husband, those where she earns just more are 15.9 percentage points more likely to under-report her relative earnings. This pattern reflects the reporting behavior of both husbands and wives and is consistent with a norm that husbands out-earn their wives.