Exploring the Black-White Wealth Gap: Marriage and Wealth Accumulation

Kimberly J. Turner, Cornell University

Family formation behaviors remain minimally explored as possible mechanisms of racial wealth stratification. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979, I estimate wealth trajectories by marital history and marriage duration through adulthood with growth models. Secondly, I use decomposition techniques to estimate the mean difference in racial wealth inequalities attributed to the differential participation in the institution of marriage and respective returns. Results indicate that the wealth trajectories of married African-Americans approach that of unmarried white Americans at age 45; however, the wealth gains attributed to marriage are not enough to overcome the black wealth disadvantage. Additionally, race differences in marital experiences account for a sizable proportion or black-white wealth inequalities. This paper sheds new light on the economics of marriage and the implications of race differences in martial experiences on economic well-being.

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Presented in Poster Session 9