Breakin’ up Is Hard to Do? the Effects of Assortative Mating on Relationship Dissolution in Taiwan

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:10
Oral Presentation
Kuo-Hsien SU, Department of Sociology, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Research has documented a recent decline in education homogamy in Taiwan, but the explanations for this trend are not clear. On the one hand, greater urbanization, increased geography migration, the rise of individualism, and decrease in educational institutions and workplaces segregations should increase contacts between people from different classes and lead to a decrease in sorting on family origin and decreasing influence of parents over partner selection. On the other hand, economic theory posits that economic downturn will reduce intermarriage because whom one married matters more in times of high uncertainty and inequality. In fact, rapid education expansion, growing economic inequality and job insecurity, and stagnation of low wage, together with strong preference of status homogamy or female hypergamy have been linked to delayed transition to marriage and gender differential of marriage rates in Taiwan.

This study examines how inequality within and between generations affects dating, mate selection and marital stability. Although sociologists has long interested in the role of assortative mating on relationship interruptions, their research rarely extends beyond the equivalence of qualifications within the couple. We examine how homogamy at both the individual and family levels affect rates of relationship dissolution in Taiwan. The case of Taiwan is especially interesting because the Chinese family norms that feature frequent intergenerational interactions throughout the life course make the equivalence in status between a couple’s families of origin particularly important in shaping the couple’s romantic relationship and marital relation. Using data from Taiwan Educational Panel Survey and Beyond, our analysis indicates that, although dating between individual with dissimilar traits are common among today’s youth, courtship and marital stability are still highly governed by preferences for status homogamy or hypergamy. Moreover, homogamy in individual characteristics does not make a relationship more stable than similarity in class origin.