Volume 41 - Article 3 | Pages 53–82  

Educational and age assortative mating in China: The importance of marriage order

By Yang Hu, Yue Qian


Background: Family change in China is characterized by increasing divorce rates and a growing number of remarriages, like in many Western countries. Assortative mating is a crucial part of the institution of (re)marriage and plays a key role in the (re)production of socioeconomic inequality. However, no research has examined assortative mating in remarriage in China, despite the recent emergence of studies on this topic in Western contexts.

Methods: Our analysis drew on pooled, nationally representative data from seven waves of the Chinese General Social Survey and China Family Panel Studies between 2010 and 2015 (N = 49,530 individuals). We used logistic regression models to examine educational and age assortative mating patterns of people in first and higher-order marriages.

Results: For both men and women, educational homogamy was less likely to occur in remarriages than in first marriages. Holding age at marriage constant, compared with those married to a similarly-aged spouse, men and women married to a spouse who was older than themselves were more likely to be in a remarriage as opposed to a first marriage.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that social norms that encourage status homogamy in first marriages are less salient in configuring assortative mating patterns in remarriages. Thus, remarriage appears to be incompletely institutionalized in China.

Contribution: This is the first study that has compared assortative mating patterns between first-married and remarried people in China. This study highlights the importance of marriage order – as an advantage for the never married and a disadvantage for the previously married – in shaping marital mobility in China.

Author's Affiliation

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