What changes for women when they are married? Do they work more or less? Do they earn more? What activities do women spend their time participating in once married? Determining whether being married helps Mexican women or hurts them economically is necessary because women’s wellbeing is frequently overlooked when scholars address economic development. If women can earn more married, then perhaps they are better off married. If women earn more single, perhaps staying single is key in women’s development. On the other hand, women must spend more time working in the home once they are married, reducing the number of hours available for them to work outside the home. If they cannot work as much as their unmarried counterparts, do they have as much opportunity to develop? Regardless of earning power, women forfeit their opportunities in the workplace when they marry because they take on the responsibilities of caring for the house and children. By closely examining the impact that frequently cited factors have on women’s development in juxtaposition with the impact marital status has, this project sheds new light on the importance of marriage for women in Mexico, and may open the door for future research in women’s economic development in other regions of the world.
In general, results suggest that women in Mexico are more likely to work if they are not married. In fact, unmarried women reported working more and making less, regardless of their head of the household status. Unmarried women who are not the heads of the household belong to households that enjoy the greatest annual income. Since these households also consume the most, it is reasonable to conclude that this could be a result of household size and more shared incomes. Unmarried women who are heads of their households consume the least and experience the lowest annual income. Married women, whether they are head of the household or not, enjoy annual incomes that fall between unmarried women’s incomes. They consume more than unmarried heads of households and less than unmarried women who are not heads of households. The results suggests that women who marry work less outside the home but more inside the home while still experiencing a greater annual income than they would if they were unmarried and the heads of their households.
In economics and gender studies alike, one topic frequently debated is the way in which women might achieve economic development. Scholars argue that women’s economic development is a result of social status, number of years in education, or age, among others. Yet current literature lacks an argument for the importance of marriage in women’s development. IDB (1998) discusses women’s participation in the workforce, comparing men and women. The authors also compare women in varying situations (with children/without children, rich/poor, rural/urban). However, IDB (1998) does not discuss marital status as a factor in women’s success, which must have an impact as well.
IDB (1998) introduces labor force participation, years of education, and fertility as the three main factors in determining women’s success (IDB 1998; 58). In terms of labor force participation, the authors stress that lower income women are less likely to even enter the labor market at all. When they do work, women of lower social status who are less educated are more likely to work long hours in the informal sector, whereas educated, upper-class women are more likely to work in formal sector jobs.
Furthermore, IDB (1998) argues that uneducated women or women with less than four years of education are not likely to be found working outside of the home and that women with many children are less likely to work outside the home as well. The more education a woman has, the less likely she is to accept a job in the informal sector.
This article also cites the many setbacks women in Mexico experience when trying to find work, such as discrimination based on whether they have or plan to have children, and whether they are married or single. While the IDB includes the fact that married women are discriminated against based on the stereotype that married women want to reproduce, the IDB (1998) fails to include marital status as a factor in wage setting or explain how marriage might impact these factors aside from discrimination. In other words, the IDB fails to explain whether married female workers earn more and work more than their unmarried counterparts.
The economic model used to guide this line of inquiry is the Utility Model. This model is used to display the utility consumers attribute to certain decisions. It is a model that suggests that women will compare their own utility when single to their utility when married. If their utility when married is greater, women will choose to marry. If it is not, women will choose to remain single. The model is explained in the following way:
The Utility Model uses UF to display a female’s utility when she is married, which suggests that
UF = UF(αm*Lf , x)
such that αm is equal to the couple’s compatibility, Lf is equal to the woman’s leisure time, and x is equal to the amount of market goods owned. Furthermore, using VF to display a female’s utility when she is single, the model suggests that
VF = VF (Lf , x)
such that Lf is equal to the woman’s leisure time, and x is equal to the amount of market goods owned. Under the Utility Model, since marriage can be considered a consumer decision, women will decide to marry when their utility as married women is greater than their utility as single women, or
UF > VF
and will decide not to marry when their utility as single women is greater, or
UF < VF
Under this model, women in Mexico deem marriage useful when their leisure time and consumer goods rise as a result, or when leisure is greatly enhanced by a husband. This model does not account for consumer satisfaction, but it does help to explain why marriage may be considered useful to some women and not useful to others. As will be considered later in the results section, married women do experience greater leisure time and larger consumption.
Data and Empirical Approach
This study was focused on data from the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS) from 2009-2012. Since the study also focused on women’s benefit from marriage, the sample included all 13,714 females in the survey who reported marital status. It also included all female records in the MxFLS for wage, income, household consumption, and hours spent doing certain activities.
The data are presented in groups of married heads of households, married women who are not heads of households, unmarried heads of household, and unmarried women who are not heads of households. The number of hours worked outside of the household was considered, along with the wage each category of women was likely to receive on average. Regression analysis was also used to determine the impact marital status had on employment, wage, household income, household consumption, and hours spent participating in multiple activities, holding all else constant.
Results showed that women spend more time in the home once they are married. Table 1 shows that women who are not married are more likely to be employed than women who are married. For example, among women who are married and identify as the head of the household, only 31 percent are employed, compared with 41 percent of their non-married peers. Furthermore, Table 1 shows that female heads of household are more likely to be employed than their non-head of household peers, although only by a small percentage: non-head of household wives are 3 percent less likely to be employed than their counterparts who are the heads of their households.
Table 2 shows that women who are not married make less and work more than women who are married. For example, among married female heads of households who are employed, the average wage earned is $61.20 pesos per day. This wage is the lowest in the married women category, but it is still larger than unmarried women’s wages, which average $49.50 pesos per day for unmarried women who are heads of households and $54.90 pesos per day for unmarried women who are not heads of households. Furthermore, the number of hours worked varies greatly from married to unmarried, even when the women were employed in more than one job. While the married women worked anywhere from 35.5 to 36.9 hours in their first job, their unmarried counterparts worked 37.8 to 41.2 hours in their first job. Table 2 also shows that unmarried women are likely to work anywhere from 6 to 10 more hours in their second job than their married counterparts.
Table 3 reaffirms the results from Table 1; women who are married are less likely to be working, more likely to earn a greater wage, and earn more when they are not heads of households. Married women are 13 percent less likely to be employed than their unmarried counterparts, and likely to spend 7.58 hours less working outside of the home. Married women also experience an annual household income that is greater than their unmarried counterparts by $3,088 pesos and a monthly household consumption that is $108.22 pesos more than their unmarried counterparts.
Table 3 also shows that a self-identified female household head is likely to experience an annual household income that is $9,584 pesos less than her non-married female counterpart who is not the head of her household. A married household head also consumes $555.37 pesos less per month than her counterparts who are unmarried and not the heads of their households. Marital status and head of household status had the greatest impact on a woman’s employment, wage, hours worked, annual household income, and monthly consumption in comparison with other factors, such as age and years of education.
Table 4 shows that married women spend more hours doing household work than their unmarried counterparts, sleep more, and have more leisure time. For example, married women are likely to work 8.72 more hours in the househol, have 1.13 more hours of leisure time, and sleep 0.97 hours more than their unmarried counterparts.
Table 4 also shows that marital status has the greatest impact on women’s time spent doing various activities. If she is the married head of her household, she is spending 2.04 more hours doing household work than her unmarried counterpart who is not the head of her household. She is sleeping 0.49 more hours and experiencing slightly more leisure time. Other factors with some impact are the number of children and the woman’s age, but these impacts are not as great as marital status and head of household status.
Conclusion and Policy Implications
It is clear that women’s differences in Mexico are based on a number of factors (as described in the regression table), but the most significant impacts come from the number of years of education a women has, her age, and whether or not she is married and the head of her household, with the greatest impact coming from the last two. The results suggest that unmarried women who are not the head of the household spend more hours working in lower wage jobs, but they also spend more time in school and less time participating in household work. Married women, on the other hand, make more money when they work, but work fewer hours outside of the home. Instead, the number of hours they spend doing household work increases when they marry and more so if they are the head of their household.
Unmarried women who are not the heads of their households belong to households that enjoy the greatest annual income. Since these households also consume the most, it is reasonable to conclude that this could be a result of household size and more shared incomes. Unmarried women who are the heads of their households consume the least and experience the lowest annual income. Married women, whether they are the head of their household or not, enjoy annual incomes that fall between unmarried women’s incomes. They consume more than unmarried heads of households and less than unmarried women who are not heads of households. In interpreting the data, I must consider that unmarried women over the age of eighteen who are not heads of households are still living with family members who help to support them. The results suggest that women who marry work less outside the home but more inside the home while still experiencing a greater annual income than they would if they were unmarried and the heads of their households.
In terms of autonomy, unmarried women who are the heads of their households may feel the most autonomous because they support themselves, but they are working much more than their married counterparts and earning a lower wage. Unmarried women who are not the heads of their households earn an average wage still below married women’s wages and work many more hours. It appears that women who marry are able to work fewer hours because they earn a higher wage. Perhaps marrying helps women become more successful in that they are able to work less and earn the same annually as they would working more hours as a single woman. In other words, since women can earn more by marrying, and gain more leisure and sleep time, women can use marriage as a way to become more successful.
Binder, Melissa. Dec. 2, 2014. “The Utility Model,” Discussion Notes.
Interamerican Development Bank (IDB). 1998. “Chapter 3: Inequality and The Family,” Economic & Social Progress in Latin America 1998/99: Facing Up to Inequality in Latin America. (Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.),:57-86.