Strong Family Ties and Demographic Behavior in Japan

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:10 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Akihiko KATO , School of Political Science and Economics, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan
This study investigates the effects of intergenerational family ties on demographic behavior such as marriage, divorce, marital fertility, and women’s labor force participation during the child rearing period, using retrospective life history data from a nationally representative survey in Japan.

Although Japan is still one of the strongest family countries, intergenerational ties have gradually weaken relative to the past in terms of living arrangements: the shift from intergenerational co-residence upon marriage to delayed co-residence and proximate residence. The proportion of couples co-residing with the husband’s parent(s) or with the wife’s parent(s) at the time of marriage decreases from about 35% for those born in the 1930s to 20% for those born in the 1960s. However, the latter cohort starts living with their parent(s) soon after marriage, and then over 30% of them co-reside 10–15 years after marriage, showing a delayed co-residence tendency. In addition, for the 1960s cohort, the proportion of couples living nearby (within a walkable distance) the husband’s parent(s) or the wife’s parent(s) is over 20%, higher than other cohorts, from the time of marriage onward.

A series of event history analyses shows interesting results: Intergenerational co-residency and/or proximity have strong positive effects on marital stability, marital fertility, and the labor force participation of married women. It suggests that weakening intergenerational ties can be a key cause of current demographic problems such as later and less marriage, rising divorce rate, very low fertility, and women’s labor force exit upon family formation.

In the past decade, much has been written and discussed about the relationship between strong family and low fertility. However, little literature has presented the whole picture of the relationships between strong family and demographic behavior. This paper will try to fill the gap.