Differential patterns and causes of retreat from marriage in an era of dramatic family change: Taiwan after the millennium

Yen-hsin Alice Cheng, Academia Sinica

This study aims to explore the retreat from first marriages in Taiwan. In particular, the gender and educational differentials are examined using vital statistics and household registration data. The potential factors leading low marriage rates and the incentives needed to raise marriage intentions are explored by using aggregate economic indicators and large, nationwide surveys. The preliminary findings show that marriage rates are declining across all educational groups for both sexes—though with a positive educational gradient for men and a negative gradient for women. For the reasons of staying single, more college-educated women indicated not finding a suitable partner as the main cause, while less educated women tend to state a fear of having unhappy marriages as the main reason. This study adds to the recent discussions of the flight from marriage in East Asia in several ways. First, the analyses reveal that the dramatic decline in marriage rates among the least educated men warrants equal attention as the phenomenon observed among college educated women. Second, the findings show that the retreat from marriage among the college-educated women is likely to be involuntary, as their marriage intentions are much higher than the least educated women. This is contrary the narratives of how well-educated women are ‘escaping’ marriages. Finally, this study demonstrates that the worsened economic conditions among young employers should not be left out of the discussions on recent decline in first marriage rates, as the economic foundation needed for a new family has become more difficult to build among single people. In turn, an improvement in economic conditions is commonly stated by all as a key factor to raise marriage intentions. Aside from economic factors, the discrepancy in sex-role and marriage attitudes between the two sexes is also one of the core factors contributing to the retreat from marriage.

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Presented in Poster Session 1

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