Hukou intermarriage and social exclusion in China.
Hukou is a key marker of status in contemporary China. Urban hukou status confers large economic benefits such as preferential access to good schools, prestigious occupations, and state-subsidized welfare benefits. As such, trends in hukou intermarriage convey important but underappreciated information about social mobility in China. This article examines trends in hukou intermarriage between 1958 and 2008. We find that hukou intermarriage is surprisingly common and has grown steadily since 1985. Hypotheses derived from Western contexts do little to explain this trend. Increased education, economic inequality, and availability each fail to explain trends as predicted in prior work. A common hypothesis is that increased inequality should reduce intermarriage by making it more costly to "marry down." We find the opposite-increasing inequality is associated with increasing hukou intermarriage, particularly between urban men and rural women, which is consistent with the hypothesis that the costs of marrying down may be outweighed by the incentives to marry up in this context. Our results also suggest hukou conversion plays a key role in increased intermarriage. These findings highlight the uniqueness of the Chinese context and suggest that standard hypotheses about assortative mating may not be applicable in contexts with strong state-controlled social boundaries.
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