New patterns in first marriage formation in South Korea

Li Ma, Stockholm University
Gunnar Andersson, Stockholm University
Gerda R. Neyer, Stockholm University

Since the 1970s, South Korea (or Korea) has experienced dramatic economic and social changes. The country has transformed into a developed society; education has been dramatically expanded; women have become more strongly attached to the labor force; marriage and childbearing have been delayed and declined; and pre-marital cohabitation has become more common. Previous studies related to family formation in Korea mainly focus on the role of education expansion on the decline of marriage. We have little knowledge about how women’s new life behaviors may have contributed to the patterns in marriage formation. In this study, we explore how the marriage trend and assortative mating in Korea has developed by factors such as women’s employment and pre-marital pregnancy. Data used for this analysis come from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study (KLIPS) waves 1 to 10. We first apply event history analysis to explore general patterns in marriage formation. Calendar years, woman’s age, education, employment status, pre-marital pregnancy, and background factors are considered. Then we estimate the competing risks of a woman marrying someone of similar, higher or lower educational level. We find a clear-cut decline of first marriage trend since the 1970s. Withdrawing from the labor force before marriage, which was a prominent pattern of marriage entry in the 1970s-1990s, has substantially lost its prevalence from the late 1990s. The marriage trend of employed women has remained very stable over time. Pre-marital pregnancy increases the likelihood of getting married, especially at the turn of the new century when there appeared an upsurge in this marriage behavior. Educational homogamy has been a main-stream marriage behavior. In the 1970s and the 1980s, hypergamy was very prominent in women’s marriage. However, with women becoming highly educated since the 1990s, the probability for them to marry someone of higher education substantially decreased.

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Presented in Session 60: Special thematic session on family systems and transitions