Couples are less likely than singles, but more likely than families to emigrate to a different country. But who makes the decision to migrate? Does the traditional role model prevail, where the man’s career prospects play the most important role? Or does the migration decision simply depend on the better-educated, higher-earning spouse’s job opportunities?
In a new IZA Discussion Paper Panu Poutvaara, Martin Junge and Martin D. Munk for the first time analyze migration decisions of dual-earner couples distinguishing between couples with male primary earners and couples in which women earned more (which is the case for about 15 percent of the couples). The researchers use register data on the entire Danish population from 1982 to 2010. Every fifth couple in their 20s and 30s decides to leave Denmark at least for a while. In 2010, more than 42,000 couples emigrated.
The authors find that family migration is indeed very responsive to the primary earner’s income – regardless of whether this is the male or the female partner. Each one-percent increase in the earnings of the primary earner increases the likelihood that a couple emigrates for at least 5 years by 1.6 to 3.6 percent. The effect of the secondary earner’s income is small and varies in sign across different groups.
On the other hand, the male’s education plays a bigger role than the female’s education in emigration decisions, independent of which partner earned more in Denmark. Even when the woman earns more, the emigration rate of male power couples (male has college education while female has not) is higher than the emigration rate of female power couples. If both partners went to college, the probability of migrating is six times higher than for couples without a university degree.