Recent trends in the Chinese family
Family in China has experienced drastic changes in the past decades. Yet we have limited knowledge of the trends and patterns of the Chinese family in transition.
This study provides a systematic documentation of the Chinese family in transition by estimating a variety of indicators of marital and fertility behaviors in China, including the singlehood rate, first marriage age, cohabitation rate, divorce rate, and nonmarital childbirth rate.
We analyze data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 China Censuses, the 2005 1% China Population Inter-Census Surveys, and the 2010‒2016 China Family Panel Studies.
The results indicate trends of delays in first marriage age and increases in premarital cohabitation in China. Despite below-replacement fertility, childlessness remains rare among married Chinese couples. In addition, almost all children are born and raised within marriage, with a virtual absence of nonmarital childbearing in China. Although we observe a slight increase in divorce across cohorts, the divorce rate within 10 years in China was much lower than in other East Asian societies.
Our research suggests both continuity and changes in marital and childbearing behaviors in China. The trajectory of family changes in China has not followed those in Western countries.
This article documents the most recent Chinese family changes and provides national estimates of family behaviors in China.