Hukou Intermarriage and Mate Selection Process of Rural Migrants in Urban China

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 54
Oral Presentation
Lake LUI , Sociology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
China is a natural case for understanding the relationship between internal migration, rural-urban marriages, and stratification. Past studies show that during Mao’s era when internal migration was banned, rural people married within 25 km from their villages. Social mobility through marriages and migration for work was hindered. After the ban was lifted in 1978, hoards of rural migrants escape rural poverty and flood to the urban areas to improve their life chances. It is logically expected that spatial mobility brings people with rural and urban origins closer culturally, socially and economically, and thus increasing the odds of rural-urban marriages. However, this is not happening. The urban and the rural marriage markets are not overlapping despite migration. Based on 62 in-depth interviews with urban and rural people and participant observations in various parts of South China, I found that opportunities for rural-urban marriages are seriously constrained by the ascribed stratified “hukou system” (household registration) in various ways. First, this system links people’s accessibility to state-provided opportunities and benefits for urban people like housing, education, and health care, which cannot be enjoyed by the rural migrants. They are thus degraded as second class citizens in the urban areas and become the least desirable in the urban marriage market.  Second, spatial segregation in education, housing, and workplace has reduced the opportunities for rural migrants to meet urbanities and/or developing urban ties that facilitate rural-urban marriages. Third, day-to-day discrimination against rural migrants has forced some to self-eliminate from “marrying up.” However, facing these constraints, some individuals employ strategies to break the social and spatial segregation by using Information Communication Technologies in dating and by upholding and adopting “modern” urban cultures and values so that their status is comparable to the average urbanites.