March 2023

IZA DP No. 16022: Marriage in Old Age: What Can We Learn about Policy Impacts on Same-Sex Couples?

Leora Friedberg, Elliott Isaac

Recipiency of tax or transfer benefits in the United States often depends on marital status, creating complicated incentives that reward marriage for some and penalize it for others. Same-sex couples, who only recently gained the right to marry, now face the same marriage incentives that different-sex couples faced for decades. We highlight marriage incentives affecting older couples, who have rarely been studied. Using the American Community Survey, we estimate decreases in marriage among older, previously married women, which are consistent with remarriage disincentives from Social Security and marriage disincentives from Medicaid that are more salient for women.