Getting hitched? Changing your name could cost you $500K

If you’re a woman, changing your last name could cost you  — up to a half mil over a lifetime. A study by an economics research institute in the Netherlands found that women who adopted their married names, even hyphenated versions, were likely to earn less than their maiden-named counterparts.

The study even put a dollar amount on how much more a maiden-named dame stands to make: $1,172.36 more per month. Over a lifetime, that could add up to $500,000 or more.

The team of researchers staged a number of social and professional scenarios in order to test perceptions of imaginary women with a last name that matched their spouse’s. LearnVest offers a run-down on the process:

The study comprised several experiments, all of which yielded the same results. First, participants were asked to imagine meeting a married couple at a party. Some met a couple introduced with the same last name, and some met the same couple introduced with different last names. When asked to rate whether the women were caring, competent, dependent, intelligent and emotional, the married-name woman was deemed more caring, dependent and emotional. The maiden-name woman was seen as more intelligent and competent.

There was also a job-interview component:

Participants saw resumes for “Roos Ellemers” with attached memos indicating that (1) she was named Fischer before marrying Dirk Ellemers, or (2) she is married to Dirk Fischer. The second set of Rooses was judged more ambitious and intelligent, was more likely to be hired and nabbed that higher monthly salary.

This article from Learnvest does a thorough job of unpacking the study as well as taking a few jabs at the experiment’s methodology and conclusions: the subject pool was Dutch students; women with professional name recognition would have more incentive to keep their names to begin with, and may already be earning more, etc. Still, fascinating stuff, and worth a read. If you still want his last name, you may be better off tattooing it somewhere (other than your face.)

[via Learnvest]


  1. Meredith Olson

    I found this really interesting, though not all that surprising.
    In regards to the comments others have made, the employer would certainly know what her married name is; perhaps not for immediate hiring (though references and background checks would certainly bring out the truth,if they were digging that deeply). Definitely as the employer and new hire worked together (and she thus had the opportunity to receive promotions or raises or not), the employer would find out more personal information about her.

  2. Karina

    Agreed that the study’s conclusions are weak, but at least interesting in highlighting possible perceptions people have of women who choose to keep their maiden names vs. Those who don’t.
    whether or not that coukd be said to definitely cause a loss in gross earnings and potential advancement is another question which would be more difficult to test for lots of reasons. most obviously because no boss is going to admit to this bias even on the rare chance that they are aware of having one at all.

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