Assortative Mating on Only-Child Status and Accumulation of Economic Advantages in Contemporary China
45 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2023 Last revised: 29 Aug 2023
Date Written: July 24, 2023
This study examines a new type of assortative mating and its economic consequences. Previous research has suggested that people tend to marry someone similar to themselves, which potentially affects macro-level inequalities. In contemporary China, differential fertility, reinforced by the implementation of the One-Child Policy (1979-2015), has resulted in a situation that only children on average come from higher status families than individuals with siblings. As the only-child status signals more parental support and better inheritance prospects in the Chinese marriage market, I hypothesize that (1) net of other factors, only children have incentives to marry each other; (2) this kind of marital sorting further contributes to the economic advantages of only-child couples (both partners only children) over non-only-child couples. By adopting data from the China Family Panel Studies, I demonstrate that growing up as an only child has a positively significant effect on marrying another only child. In addition, by exploiting the plausibly exogenous shock of China's One-Child Policy, I show that only-child couples generally earn higher income, receive more monetary transfer, and own more expensive homes than other married couples. These findings reveal that the One-Child Policy unintentionally maintained or even enlarged disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged social groups.
Keywords: only child, assortative mating, economic inequality, and China
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