Events & Seminars

SOSC Seminar
Women’s education and marriage in Japan: Insights into Social Change (and Stability) (Tuesday 14 May 2019)


Weakening or reversal of the negative educational gradient in women’s marriage represents a profound shift in patterns of family formation in many high-income countries. This change is thought to reflect as shift in the “economic foundations of marriage” that has occurred in the context of a broader “gender revolution.” My goal in this talk is to provide a broad overview of educational differences in women’s marriage in Japan to shed light on distinctive features of the Japanese context and to provide a lens on social change. To set the context, I begin by summarizing the findings from two earlier papers published in 2003 and 2005. These papers document a strong negative relationship between women’s education and marriage and show that decline in the marriage rates of highly-educated women is partially explained by rapid convergence in men’s and women’s educational attainment combined with the maintenance of strong norms of educational homogamy and female hypergamy. This pattern of results is consistent with expectations of declining benefits of marriage for women with high earnings potential in settings characterized by a highly asymmetric gender division of labor. I will then present results from a new paper that uses methods similar to the earlier papers to examine very recent trends in Japanese marriage. In this paper, we show that the negative educational gradient in women’s first marriage disappeared in the mid-2000s and reversed around 2010. This change was brought about by a combination of declines in the marriage rates of less-educated women and increases in the marriage rates of highly-educated women. The former finding is consistent with expectations derived from the theoretical emphases on deteriorating employment circumstances among the low educated whereas the latter is consistent with expectations from the so-called gender revolution framework.



Jim Raymo is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also the current Director of Graduate Training of the Center for Demography of Health and Aging and the former Director of the Center for Demography and Ecology. Raymo’s research focuses primarily on evaluating patterns and potential consequences of major demographic changes in Japan. He has published widely on key features of recent family change, including delayed marriage, extended coresidence with parents, and increases in premarital cohabitation, shotgun marriages, and divorce. In other lines of research, he has examined health outcomes at older ages in Japan and their relationship with family, work, and local area characteristics and has examined multiple dimensions of well-being among the growing population of single mothers and their children in Japan. He is currently involved in a new project that explores explanations for low fertility in Japan and another that examines inequalities in children’s development in Japan. His research has been published in top U.S. journals such as American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Demography, and Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences as well as in Japanese journals.

Faculty host: Cameron Campbell (

Prof James M Raymo
University of Wisconsin-Madison
May 14, 2019 (Tuesday)
12:00 noon - 1:30 pm
Room 3301 (via lifts 17-18), Academic Building, HKUST