Family Norms and Declining First-Marriage Rates: The Role of Sibship Position in the Japanese Marriage Market

Fumiya Uchikoshi, James M. Raymo, Shohei Yoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores how changes in sibship composition associated with fertility decline may, in conjunction with entrenched family norms and expectations asso­ci­ated with spe­cific sibship posi­tions, impact mar­riage rates and fur­ther reduce fer-til ity. We evaluate this possibility by focusing on Japan, a society characterized by half a cen­tury of below-replace­ment fer­til­ity and widely shared fam­ily norms that asso­ci­ate eldest (male) chil­dren with spe­cific fam­ily obli­ga­tions. Harmonic mean mod­els allow us to quantify the contribution of changes in both marriage market composition with respect to sibship posi­tion and sibship-spe­cific pairing pro­pen­si­ties to the observed decline in mar­riage rates between 1980 and 2010. One impor­tant find­ing is that marriage propensities are lower for those pairings involving men and women whose sibship posi­tion sig­nals a higher poten­tial of care­giv­ing obli­ga­tions, espe­cially only-chil­dren. Another is that changes in mar­riage pro­pen­si­ties, rather than chang­ing sibship com-po sition, explain most of the observed decline in marriage rates. We also found that marriage propensity changes mitigate the impact of the changing sibship composition to some extent. However, the lim­ited con­tri­bu­tion of chang­ing sibship com­po­si­tion to the decline in first-mar­riage rates pro­vi­des lit­tle sup­port for a self-reinforcing fer­til-ity decline via the relationship between changing sibship composition and marriage behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)939-963
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography


  • Family
  • Fertility
  • Japan
  • Marriage
  • Sibship composition


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