Marriage Squeeze in China: Historical Legacies, Surprising Findings

Daniel M. Goodkind, U.S. Census Bureau

Since the late 1980s, the proliferation of prenatal sex testing in China has led increasingly to selective abortion of female fetuses. Yet these sex-distorted birth cohorts are still too young to marry. In 2000, a severe shortage of potential brides at peak marital ages was due to age structure. Grooms tend to be older than brides, and the age structure at 20-29 resembled an inverse pyramid. From 2005 to 2010, a temporary shift to a traditional pyramid will lead to a shortage of husbands. From 2015 to 2025, the cohorts affected by prenatal sex selection will experience a protracted deficit of brides, yet that deficit will still more likely be due to age structure. The accordion-like fluctuations in China’s age structure are due not only to patterns of fertility decline following the population policies established in the 1970s, they can be traced back to the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961).

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Presented in Session 120: The Marriage Revolution in Asia