Usually a TA stipend is only given to cover the expenses of a single student. I have received a stipend of about $19000 for 2 semesters (9 months) and a summer fellowship ($4000). Is it appropriate to ask for an increase even before I go to graduate school as I have to fund my spouse (I am an international student)? Or is it better to work for a semester or two, perform well, build a case and then ask for an increase?

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    I've never heard of an increase of stipend for just having a spouse. In some countries with a welfare state there can be financial assistance from the government in case of specific problems (e.g. a spouse with a severe disability who is unable to work). – Massimo Ortolano Apr 1 '16 at 11:22
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    You wouldn't ask for a salary increase if you started your studies with credit card debt, a car loan, or some other financial obligation, would you? This isn't really any different. – Nuclear Hoagie Apr 1 '16 at 13:21
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    My own institute offers an additional £200 per month to a married staff member or student. This is not in the US though, and as far as I can tell, only institutes which are run by international organisations, such as EMBL and CERN, offer such an allowance. – MJeffryes Apr 1 '16 at 14:03
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    Are there any jobs that offer more money if you are married, or supporting a family? – Sam Apr 1 '16 at 17:24
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    "Spouse" and "dependant" are two completely different questions. Being married to somebody who also works decreases your cost of living. Many countries give tax breaks to married couples and, usually, a house that's big enough for two people is rather less than twice as expensive as a house big enough for one. – David Richerby Apr 1 '16 at 20:32

No, the stipends are set according to uniform rules for the department. You will not get extra if you have to support a family, although there are probably other, non-financial, supports that the university will offer your dependents (such as married student housing). Moreover, TA pay is not typically subject to merit-based raises either. You will not get a raise by asking for one; your stipend may go up slightly when you reach a major milestone (such as qualifying for the Ph.D. program), but mostly it will rise at the same rate as all the other TA's.

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    +1. Aside from housing, some schools offer health coverage, daycare, and spousal visa/employment assistance, depending on their level of awesomeness (the school, not the spouse). – RoboKaren Apr 1 '16 at 19:46

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