Is Marriage a Form of Disability Insurance?

Sven E. Wilson, Brigham Young University

This study uses the HRS to investigate the effect of spousal disability on labor force participation, hours worked and earnings. Although we might presume that married persons would compensate economically for the disability of their spouse, the simple correlations reveal that a person with a disabled spouse actually works and earns significantly less than those with a non-disabled spouse. However, both cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis indicates that a primary reason for this is that the spouses of disabled persons are themselves much more likely to be disabled than average. After controlling for own disability and other characteristics, we find little evidence for spousal coordination of labor market behavior (in any direction) with respect to changes in disability status. Thus, not only are disabled individuals often married to similarly disabled spouses, there is little evidence for compensatory labor market behavior by the spouse of the disabled person.

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Presented in Poster Session 2