Why do Chinese get married at an older age?

I just had a conversation with my roommate about this issue. When she was an exchange student at UC Santa Babara, her friend went to three weddings in a week. And the three brides are all fresh college graduates! In China, however, it is extremely rare for people in their early twenties to get married. In the relatively developed cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, getting married after 30 is not uncommon.

I was surprised. Chinese people emphasize family and children, whilst Americans advocate freedom and independence. But the story here seems to be upside down. However, Chinese people are getting married at a much older age than several years ago (a description by China Daily can be found here).  Why are Chinese people getting married later nowadays?

Firstly, China is in an economic boom with increasing opportunities for wealth. Getting married earlier means more restrictions in career prospects, and thus many people just choose to put aside their marriage when they’re young.

Secondly, together with the economic prosperity there comes higher living costs, especially in coastal cities. People are under pressure to make enough money before they can afford the marriage. Moreover, a typical Chinese couple are supposed to get their own flat upon marriage. As the housing costs are shooting up, it takes years to save for this big expense.

Thirdly, the government’s long-lasting one-child policy and suggestions for people to have children at older age can be an important contributing factor of this phenomenon. Since most couples can only have one child, there’s no need to hurry at a young age.

Hopefully I can support my arguments here with more concrete data and tabulations later.

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2 thoughts on “Why do Chinese get married at an older age?

  1. Another reason may be the “side effect” of globalization. Chinese people face more international opportunities both in career and individual life. Those “satisfiers” gradually change to “maximizers”. People who get married earlier bear much more “opportunity cost” than before. So, why rush into marriage?
    Enjoy our golden single days~

    • I take your point. We’re indeed in a much more mobilized world. Unfortunately, in China, only the social elites can enjoy the benefits of globalization. The rural poor are basically shut out from many opportunities to live a better life.

      I was looking at some articles about China’s screwed sex ratio, which is partly brought about by the one-child policy (by the way I’m very into this topic). This won’t have such a big impact on elite male population, though. It is the poorer, less educated men who will suffer. I think this issue is very important for the stabilization of Chinese society.

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