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Abstract

The hypothesis that marriage increases men's earnings has contributed to legislative support for the Healthy Marriage Initiative (HMI). However, previous studies of this phenomenon have not controlled for many relevant characteristics that select men into marriage, nor have they focused on low-income, unmarried fathers—the population targeted by HMI. We use the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which measures many previously unobserved confounders, to test for a relationship between marriage and earnings. We use a variety of analytic strategies to control for selection (including differencing and propensity scores) and find no evidence of an effect of transitions to marriage on the earnings of unmarried fathers that differs from zero, either for the full sample or subsamples defined by race-ethnic category and baseline cohabitation status. © 2009 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.