European Journal of Population

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 129–154 | Cite as

The Transition to First Marriage in China, 1966–2008: An Examination of Gender Differences in Education and Hukou Status

  • Martin PiotrowskiEmail author
  • Yuying Tong
  • Yueyun Zhang
  • Lu Chao


Using retrospective life history data from the 2008 Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS), this study examines the entrance into first marriage in China, a country that has been experiencing profound socioeconomic changes for the past several decades. We examine educational differences across rural and urban regions and across gender as determinants of marriage. Results reveal that for rural women, increasing education (especially from the least educated to middle levels of education) decreases marriage chances. For urban women, increasing education does not affect their marriage chances, net of other factors. For the former, results are consistent with the broad East Asian cultural practice of women “marrying up.” For the latter, we argue that modernizing forces (e.g., improvements in education) have reduced the incidence of this practice. We also find effects attributable to unique features of the Chinese institutional context, such as the rural/urban divide and effects of the household registration (Hukou) system.


Marriage China Hukou system Marrying up 



Piotrowski’s efforts on this research were supported in part by a Faculty Enrichment Grant from the University of Oklahoma. Piotrowski would like to thank the Carolina Population Center (CPC) and the East West Center (EWC) for providing office space and other resources during the writing of this paper. Chao received a Grasmick fellowship from the Sociology Department of the University of Oklahoma to support his contribution to this paper. The authors would like to thank Susanne Choi, S. Philip Morgan, and Ronald R. Rindfuss for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Piotrowski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yuying Tong
    • 2
  • Yueyun Zhang
    • 2
  • Lu Chao
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyChinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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