Women’s educational attainment and the transition to first marriage in three East Asian countries

Guilherme Chihaya, Umeå University

This study compares the effect of education on marriage rates in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. Theories explaining cross-country variation in the effect of women’s earning potential on marriage claim that negative effects happen when gender-role differentiation forces women to choose between career and family. I hypothesise that Taiwan will have less negative impact of women’s earning potential, measured as years of schooling, on marriage. Compared to Japanese and Korean firms, Taiwanese enterprises are small-scale and function under higher labour demand, what forces them to accommodate married women. This reduces career interruptions due to marriage and the opportunity costs educated women face when marrying. Unexpectedly, I find that in Taiwan the effect of education is negative and stronger than in Japan and South Korea. Besides not supporting existing theories, this finding calls for alternative explanations to variation in the relationship between marriage and economic potential.

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Presented in Session 42: Economic crisis, uncertainty and fertility