Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 259–283 | Cite as

Superstition effects versus cohort effects: is it bad luck to be born in the year of the fire horse in Japan?

  • Hiroyuki YamadaEmail author


The year of the fire horse (called “Hinoeuma” in Japanese) is one of the sixty Chinese zodiac symbols used to count years. According to superstition, fire horse women are said to have troubled marriages, to mistreat men, and to cause early deaths for their husbands and fathers. No such stigma applies to men born in these years. This paper attempts to investigate the impact of women’s birth in the most recent fire horse year (1966) on the outcome of their lives by using individual-level microdata. We find that there is no evidence of disadvantages to fire horse women in human capital investment, performance in the marriage market, or intra-household allocation of resources after marriage. We provide two plausible explanations for this lack of impact from the stigma: a cohort size effect and a dynamic transition in the share of arranged and love marriages. The latter affected parents’ decisions in 1966 as well as the performance of fire horse women in the marriage market and in intra-household resource allocation after marriage. This finding suggests the importance of careful attention to the dynamic effects of society and the economy that may occur before the emergence of a cohort size effect.


Superstition Cohort Fire horse Marriage 

JEL Classification

I31 J11 J12 J16 N35 



The Japanese Panel Survey of Consumers (JPSC) is a project of The Institute for Research on Household Economics. I would like to thank the institute for permission to use the data. I would like to thank Chris Rohlfs, Kazuo Yamaguchi, Yasuyuki Sawada, Keita Suga, and Alexander Reed for helpful comments and suggestions. All errors remain my own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osaka School of International Public PolicyOsaka UniversityToyonakaJapan

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