A few weeks before Arnold got married, his boss called him into his office to review his performance and bestow the year's salary increase.
Arnold (not his real name) had a pretty fair idea what to expect. He had been with the company for several years and the raises were about the same size each year. But this year, the company surprised him."The raise was twice what I thought it would be," he told the Deseret News. "I wasn't sure if it was a mistake or not, but I wasn't going to find out. I just accepted it. Afterward, I assumed it was because I was getting married and the company was just taking care of me. Kind of a marriage present."
According to a survey released by University of Michigan last week, U.S. companies do a pretty good job of taking care of their married male employees. The study showed that married men in the United States make 30.6 percent more money than their single counterparts.
The wage gulf between married and single men is much wider in the United States than in any of the other 11 industrialized nations in the survey. The Deseret News contacted Robert Schoeni, the man who released the startling survey, to find out why.
Schoeni had three theories. "One is that being married literally makes you more productive, which leads to higher earnings," he said. "You may feel more responsible for providing for your family, so you work harder. Another theory is that men who earn more are more attractive to women so they are more likely to marry. A third possibility is that for some unknown reason employers favor married men so they discriminate in favor of them," Schoeni said.
He broke the discrimination down to what he called sheer discrimination and statistical discrimination. Sheer discrimination means an employer "may prefer to be around married men instead of unmarried men or he promotes them or pays them better," he said. Statistical discrimination means that employers with limited information on employees compensate married employees better because "employers may see marital status as an indication that a man is more stable, has ties to the community or may not leave the company soon," Schoeni suggested.
He collected economic data on Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States from the Center for Population, Poverty and Policy Studies in Luxembourg, he said.
After breaking the data down, Schoeni discovered that married men in all 12 countries make more than single men do, but the difference is much greater in Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States. Schoeni didn't know why.
Married men in the 12 countries made the following percentages more than single men: Australia, 13.6; France, 14.4; Germany, 12.4; Italy, 9.3; the Netherlands, 11.1; Norway, 26.4; Poland, 3.1; Sweden, 16.1; Switzerland, 25.9; the United Kingdom, 12.7; and the United States, 30.6.
"I don't have the data to break marital status down by divorced, separated, widowed or otherwise," Schoeni said. "It is simply married or unmarried at the time the data was collected."
So what's Schoeni's advice? "I don't think a man should take this survey as a sign that he should marry," he said. Schoeni himself married 10 months ago and his salary hasn't changed. "No increase at all," he lamented. "So I'm proof that there are some people out there that this doesn't apply to."
After soothing single men's fears, Schoeni offered an encouraging word to single women. While no one has done the definitive survey on the impact marriage has on women's salaries, Schoeni said preliminary indications suggest the wage gulf isn't nearly as wide for women. "If you are a woman, being married may not mean that you have higher earnings," he said.