Volume 43 - Article 52 | Pages 1509–1544  

Job characteristics, marital intentions, and partner-seeking actions: Longitudinal evidence from Japan

By Wei-hsin Yu, Yuko Hara

This article is part of the Special Collection 30 "Family Changes and Inequality in East Asia"


Background: Most research linking jobs to marriage formation focuses on how job contexts and prospects affect singles’ paces of entering marriage. Direct evidence on whether job traits shape singles’ desire for marriage and actions toward forming a union remains scarce.

Objective: We examine how changes in a range of job characteristics correspond to alterations in never-married people’s intention to marry and actions taken to meet romantic partners in Japan, a country with increasing inequality in job quality and declining marriage rates.

Methods: We use longitudinal data from the Japan Life Course Panel Survey to fit fixed-effects models, which take into account unobserved heterogeneity among people with differing jobs.

Results: We find that rises in job insecurity and workplace staffing shortages weaken, whereas increases in income and job autonomy strengthen, men’s intention to marry. Moreover, men with a low marriage desire are especially likely to withdraw from partner-seeking activities when they have low-income jobs or face great deadline pressure at work. Job prospects and quality are generally less important to women’s desire for marriage or partner-seeking actions. Nevertheless, being in workplaces where teamwork is prevalent, which could enhance singles’ exposure to married and older coworkers, raises both women’s intention to marry and their probability of using a formal method, such as employing a marriage agency, to find a partner.

Conclusions: For Japanese men, our results offer support for the argument that economic stagnation and deterioration of job quality are conducive to later and fewer marriages. The findings for women, however, are more consistent with the narrative focusing on values and social influences.

Contribution: This study enriches our understanding of singles’ considerations of marriage and partner search and provides highly rigorous evidence on the roles of job conditions.

Author's Affiliation

  • Wei-hsin Yu - University of California, Los Angeles, United States of America EMAIL
  • Yuko Hara - University of Maryland, United States of America EMAIL

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Comparing same- and different-sex relationship dynamics: Experiences of young adults in Taiwan
Volume 40 - Article 17

Fertility responses to individual and contextual unemployment: Differences by socioeconomic background
Volume 39 - Article 35

Another work-family interface: Work characteristics and family intentions in Japan
Volume 36 - Article 13

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