Traces of the second demographic transition in East Asia: cohabitation and marriage patterns in China

Barbara E. Fulda, Technische Universit├Ąt Chemnitz

Implicit in demographic work is the assumption of convergence: Sooner or later more and more countries will go through the sequential stages of demographic change famously labelled as the second demographic transition. As countries worldwide are equally hit by global social and economic changes, the question arises if they also follow a common path of societal development despite their cultural idiosyncrasies. This study compares the process of demographic change in two regions: East Asia and Western Europe. China has been developing rapidly in the last three decades, undergoing processes of social structural change such as a rapidly growing middle class. It represents an important case in the East Asian context as adjacent countries are heavily influenced by traditional Chinese culture. On the basis of a nationally representative longitudinal survey, the China Family Panel Studies, we study partnership formation of the cohort which recently turned 35. Preliminary evidence shows that 25\% of our sample cohabited with their spouse before their marriage. We observe that variations in economic resources and educational level make a huge difference with regard to marriage timing and occurrence of pre-marital cohabitation: The lowest educated individuals cohabit less frequently than highly educated individuals. The former group marries their partners early, while the latter group cohabits until they reached a sufficiently high educational level and income. We conclude that cohabitation in the Chinese context is a precursor rather than an alternative to marriage. We study the determinants of cohabiting, getting married or staying in a Living Apart Together partnership separately in logistic regressions. Furthermore, we analyze the determinants of cohabitation duration in a survival analysis. We finally situate current partnership formation processes in China within the model of the SDT to draw conclusions on the similarity and differences of demographic change in the Eastern Asian and Western European context.

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Presented in Poster Session 3