A decrease in birth rates can be observed in Russia today, alongside a change in attitudes towards the family as an institution, with fewer marriages, more divorces, and a higher average age for the first marriage. In addition to affecting the lives of individuals, these developments also have important social and economic implications, in particular for the employment market. Studies show that marital status may either increase or decrease an employee's productivity.
In her study 'Salaries and Marital Status in Russia: Statistical Analysis', Lilia Rodionova, Associate Professor at the Subdepartment of Statistical Methods of the HSE's Department of Statistics and Data Analysis, examined the effect of marital status and its change on an individual's earnings. She analysed the 2000-2009 data of the HSE's Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Study (RLMS) using a matching approach based on assessing the effects of a binary exposure to change in marital status.
She examined the behaviour of men and women of working age (15 to 72) with different marital status described by the respondents as one of the following: 'never been married', 'officially married (registered marriage)', 'living together but not in a registered marriage', 'divorced and not remarried', 'widowed', 'officially married but separated from spouse'.
Earlier studies showed that employment decisions and salaries often depend on marital status, and most published papers suggest that this linkage is stronger for men. Thus, married men, on average, earn 10% to 20% more than men in all other categories, while married women earn just slightly less than single or divorced women.
Likewise, Rodionova's findings confirm an association between marital status and earnings, but her conclusion is somewhat different. She found that for women, changes in their marriage and relationship status have a stronger effect on employment and in most cases, cause a decrease in their earnings – except for women who remarry after a divorce.
In contrast, women entering into their first marriage and women entering an informal partnership after a divorce experience the biggest drop in earnings, averaging a decrease of 2,500 rubles a month.
Graph 1. Average salaries in Russia between 2000 and 2009 broken down by marital status and gender (in 2009 prices)
Source: Full text of the presentation 'Wages and Marital Status in Russia: Statistical Analysis'
According to Rodionova, the reason may be that women recently entering into their first marriage or entering an informal partnership are likely to assume more responsibilities for managing the household and child-rearing and as a consequence may start working part-time or looking for other forms of employment, resulting in a drop in wages. "For women, a stable marital status over time is key to stable employment and a good salary," Rodionova explains.
Men need to steer clear of divorce; family breakup has been found to have a significant impact on men's earnings – divorced men, on average, face a 4,500 rubles' drop in the monthly salary compared to the income they had while married. However, Rodionova admits that the cause and effect may be reversed, i.e. a pay cut may have negatively affected the family and ultimately led to divorce.
"Comparing our findings to those of earlier studies, we note that married men, in fact, earn more on average than other categories of men, but a change of status from 'never married' to 'married' did not show a significant effect on men in our study," she notes.
In studying the impact of marital status on earnings, Rodionova found that most Russians prefer to marry, and the vast majority of her sample were married respondents – 61.2% in 2009, who earned the highest average salary of 11,781.36 rubles, while widowed individuals earned the lowest average salary of 8,097.49 rubles in 2009.