Here’s something you can take to the bank: Married engineers make more money than those who can’t bring themselves to tie the knot—a lot more. In fact, according to our Reader Profile Survey, the marriage premium extends across every age group and all demographic attributes. Of course, being married is much more expensive than being single, so it’s doubtful that married engineers have more disposable income than their single compatriots. Nonetheless, their paychecks are definitely bigger.
What’s the link between marriage and higher wages? No one really knows for certain. One school of thought suggests that marriage itself leads to higher wages, because employers perceive married employees as stable and hardworking. Another proposes that singles and employers have a common interest in finding good-looking mates, even though physical appearance doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship in either situation.
Hal R. Varian, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an economic columnist at The New York Times, has studied income differentials between married and single people and says the jury is still out on the subject. “Married people have spouses who share responsibility for household chores and provide other sorts of assistance, which theoretically could make them more productive,” says Varian. “But there could also be an element of irrational prejudice involved that makes employers view married people as more productive, more reliable, and more committed—whether or not these things are true about an individual or the group as a whole.”
Of course, there may be no causal connection whatsoever. It may simply be that the same personal attributes that enable people to commit to and succeed in their marriages may contribute to a more successful career—in terms of both work performance and relationships with co-workers and bosses.
It appears that while marriage may not guarantee happiness, it almost guarantees a larger salary in engineering. Deciding whether trading in the single life for a salary lift is worth it, though, is entirely different.