The Marriage Dilemma of Involuntary Bachelors: The Case of China

Li Zhang, Fudan University
Yan Wei, Xi’an University of Finance and Economics

Both historically and today, China has been regarded as a universal-marriage society. Nonetheless, there are a considerable number of men who fail to secure brides, even though they are much older than the custom-defined “ideal” age of marriage and have a strong desire to get married. This paper analyzes the marriage dilemma of involuntary bachelors in a universal-marriage society. We address why some men are not able to attract brides and are forced to stay single, even as they are eager to terminate their bachelorhood. Unlike many studies which relate the cause of Chinese involuntary bachelors to the abnormally high sex ratio at birth, this paper aims to deepen understanding of the marriage dilemma of involuntary bachelorhood in China from an inequality perspective. We argue that enforced bachelors are an inferior class at the bottom echelon of the social hierarchy, and can be interpreted as the victim of intensifying inequality.

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Presented in Session 94: Marriage