Volume 36 - Article 5 | Pages 145–172

The changing role of employment status in marriage formation among young Korean adults

By Keuntae Kim

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Date received:12 May 2016
Date published:10 Jan 2017
Word count:7951
Keywords:event history analysis, Korea, transition to first marriage, women's employment


Background: Despite a persistent decline in Korea’s marriage rates over the past three decades, there is a striking lack of research on the transition to marriage among young Koreans. Similarly, few studies have examined how economic determinants have evolved over the past several decades, even as the Korean social and socioeconomic structure has undergone substantial transformation.

Methods: This paper examines changes over time in the determinants of marriage formation in Korea, using employment history data from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study (KLIPS) on three cohorts of young adults born in the 1950s‒1970s.

Results: Results indicate that, for women, the marital implications of being employed reversed over the three decades examined. While working decreased the odds of getting married for women born in the 1950s, it had no statistically significant effect for those born in the 1960s, and it strongly increased the odds of marriage for the most recent (1970s) cohort of women. For their part, men’s employment not only continued to positively predict getting married over the three decades, but its impact became stronger with each cohort, so that a man’s odds of transition to first marriage was most strongly tied to his employment status for those born in the 1970s, as compared to earlier cohorts.

Contribution: This study contributes to the literature by addressing the relationship between marriage timing and economic resources using more direct measures, examining the association between mandatory military service and marriage formation, and testing if determinants of marriage timing may evolve over time in Korea.

Author's Affiliation

Keuntae Kim - University of Wisconsin–Madison, United States of America [Email]

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