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TheStreet Open House

How to Tell If Marriage Makes You Richer or Poorer

"For richer or for poorer" is a vow many couples exchange, but can getting married actually hurt your career? Or do most couples have an advantage over their single colleagues?

The answer is a little of both.

"Marriage works as a two-edge sword," says Stephen Sweet, an assistant professor of sociology at Ithaca College in New York. On the plus side, there is often much stability to gain from tying the knot.

"Married people are better off than single people based on economic status, social status and happiness," Sweet says. "The economic gains of marriage can come from aligning yourself with another individual and increasing social capital."

However, marriage vows' financial impact does differ by gender. "Married men make more than their single counterparts," says Adam Thomas, a research director of the Brookings Project on Responsible Parenthood and Unplanned Pregnancy. At the same time, experts say, a women's income may decline after marriage, because wives sometimes reduce the amount of hours they work and this could shrink their income.

Are there some jobs where a spouse gets you ahead? It appears paired politicians, male or female, benefit from having a spouse. Of the 16 women senators, only three are unmarried. In 2007, 85% of Congress and 90% of all governors were married, according to Unmarried America. It may be "an asset to politicians from a public relations standpoint," Thomas says. "It probably helps from a photo op to have a family."

In addition, there is a "mythological standard for politicians, and this creates an imagery that you must be a happily married heterosexual individual for public image," says Dr. John Hotard, a psychologist and the former director of MBA careers services at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Other jobs where a ring could raise your profile? Judge, clergyman and police officer. A police officer may want to show a stable life and marriage can help that, says S. Alexander Takeuchi, a professor of sociology at the University of North Alabama.

And how about your productivity? "Once you get married, you're going to spend more time with your spouse and family," and it may affect your job productivity, according to Takeuchi. For those in a creative career, Takeuchi says, "the amount of time that you can spend to think and visualize things, and use your imagination decreases."

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