Abstract: This paper examines how married couples’ migration decisions differentially impact men’s and women’s earnings and the role that policy can play in improving post-move outcomes for trailing spouses. I use panel data from the NLSY97 and a generalized difference-in-differences design to show that access to unemployment insurance (UI) for trailing spouses increases long-distance migration rates by 2.7 percentage points (42%) for married couples. I find that women are the primary beneficiaries of this policy, with higher UI uptake following a move and higher annual earnings of $4,700–$15,000 three years post-move. I then build and estimate a structural model of dual-earner couples’ migration decisions to evaluate the effects of a series of counterfactual policies. I show that increasing the likelihood of joint distant offers substantively increases migration rates, increases women’s post-move employment rates, and improves both men and women’s earnings growth at the time of a move. However, unconditional subsidies for migration that are not linked to having an offer in hand at the time of the move reduce post-move earnings for both men and women, with stronger effects for women.
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