AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 574

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Session 574: Marriage and Marriage Markets in Contemporary China

Organizer: William R. Lavely, University of Washington, USA

Discussant: Arthur P. Wolf, Stanford University,

China’s “missing girl” phenomenon of recent decades has now aged into the marital ages. A marriage squeeze for men is emerging over the coming decade that will alter the prospects and circumstances of men—and women—residing in the most vulnerable areas, remote and economically backward rural communities. With this inexorable demographic trend as a backdrop, this interdisciplinary panel will examine the local demographics of marriage and marriage market processes in rural China. Using census micro-data and county-level surveys, the panel will investigate how the marriage squeeze varies by region and social position; how marriage market conditions have affected intra- and inter-household resource transfers, living arrangements, and elder care; how involuntary bachelorhood influences socioeconomic status and social integration; and how marriage market processes affect marriage migrations and spousal relations in a local landscape.

China's Marriage Market and Upcoming Challenges for Elderly Men
Avraham Ebenstein, , Israel

Fertility decline has fueled a sharp increase in the proportion of ‘missing girls’ in China, so an increasing share of males will fail to marry, and will face old age without the support normally provided by wives and children. This paper shows that historically, China has had nearly-universal marriage for women and a very competitive market for men. Lower-educated men experience higher rates of bachelorhood while women favor men with better prospects, migrating if needed from poorer to wealthier areas. The authors examine the anticipated effects of this combination of bride shortage and hypergamy, for different regions of China. Their projections indicate that unmarried males will likely be concentrated in poorer provinces with low fiscal ability to provide social protection to their citizens. Such geographic concentration of unmarried males could be socially disruptive, and the paper’s findings suggest a need to expand the coverage of social protection programs financed substantially by the central government.

China’s Changing Rural Marriage Market
Loren Brandt, University of Toronto, Canada

Rising sex ratios and expanded opportunities for out-migration are beginning to influence rural marriage markets, with potentially important implications for intra- and inter-household resource transfers, the marriage circle, living arrangements, and elder-care. Careful documentation of these changes has been handicapped by the lack of micro-level data. This paper draws on a unique survey carried out by the authors in the summer of 2005 in three Hebei counties--Fengrun, Zhaoxian and Chicheng)--in order to document these changing patterns. The survey covers 600 households, and their nearly 1700 adult children. For each child, information was collected from the parents on (1) education, (2) pre-marital work experience, (3) engagement and marriage, (4) fertility and post-marriage intra-family arrangements; and (5) pre-mortem household division. The unique sampling design allows us to track changes in each of these dimensions for these children from the early 1980s to the present, which can be also compared with pre-economic reform outcomes of their parents. Additional heterogeneity is introduced by the significant differences in the socio-economic backgrounds of the three countries. Finally, we will also be concerned with gender differences, and how they differ between rich and poor households in each of these counties.

Marital Status and Social Integration: A Comparison of Involuntary Bachelors and Married Men in Rural China
Shuzhuo Li, Independent Scholar, China

Using data from a sampling survey conducted in Yi county of Anhui province, this paper compares the socio-economic status and social integration of involuntary bachelors and married men and explores the effects of marital status on their social integration. It is found that involuntary bachelors have lower socio-economic status and social integration than married men; marital status has a salient effect on the social integration of rural males and this effect tends to vary depending on the “distance” of social relations: rural males, especially involuntary bachelors, are less willing to establish social relationships with distant relatives and non kin.

The Spatial Ecology of Mating and Marriage in a Chinese County
William R. Lavely, University of Washington, USA

This paper investigates how the process of mating redistributes women across a local landscape, and how this process influences spatial differences in the nature of marriage. Data come from a 1994 survey of “Diandong” county in eastern Yunnan Province. Diandong has mountainous terrain with large economic differences between highlands and plains residents; community characteristics are thus important factors influencing mate selection. A total of 1,336 mothers were surveyed in 51 administrative villages, in a two-stage, stratified systematic sample. This study focuses on a subsample of 1,155 women in first marriages who originated in Diandong. Respondents provided a rich set of data about their personal characteristics and that of their husbands, marital exchanges, and spousal relations, as well as about their community of residence. Additional data on the economy and elevation of Diandong’s 152 administrative villages are derived from county publications and from remote sensing data. These data will be used to describe how key aspects of mating and marriage, such as brideprice and dowry, age difference of spouses, and the companionate nature of the marriage, vary by village economic status and remoteness, and further, how marriage market processes tend to reinforce local social and economic gradients.