Eight Decades of Educational Assortative Marriage in China

Hao Dong, Peking University
Yu Xie, Princeton University

This paper examines trends in educational assortative marriages of cohorts born in 1900-1985 in China. The 20th century China, in which over one-fifth of humanity went through modernization, enables us to revisit the classical modernization theory on educational homogamy trends. Methodologically, the dramatic and gendered expansion of public education makes it challenging to compare educational attainment between genders and across cohorts. Many previous studies employ absolute educational attainment measures and log-linear models to account for such structural shifts. Instead, we measure individual educational attainment relative to same-gender peers with his/her percentile position in the education distribution of a10-year birth cohort. It facilitates trend examination using comparable and easy-to-interpret couple rank-rank regression slopes. We analyze the 1982, 1990, 2000 and 2010 China census one-percent microdata samples and four concurrent sets of nationally representative surveys. We find an overall increase in educational assortative marriages in the 20th century China, except for the 1945-1965 cohorts of the Cultural Revolution experience in education and marriage. We confirm the findings with the conventional log-linear modelling approach, plus sensitivity analyses for potential biases. Finally, using hukou status as a benchmark, our canonical correlation analysis reveals non-trivial weights of educational attainment in spouse choices of recent cohorts.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 111. Fertility Change, Timing, and Marriage