Explanations for the substantial decline in rates of marriage in East Asian countries often emphasize the role of rapid educational expansion for women in reducing the desirability of marriages characterized by a strong gender-based division of labor. Focusing on South Korea, we consider a very different scenario in which changing educational composition of the marriage market reduces the demographic feasibility of such marriages. Analyses of 1% microsamples of the 1990 and 2010 Korean censuses show that changes in the availability of potential spouses accounted for part of the decline in marriage rates over a period of 20 years (1985–1989 to 2005–2009) for highly educated women and less-educated men. We also show that growth in international marriages played a role in preventing an even more dramatic decline in marriage among low-educated men. These findings support the general relevance of marriage market mismatches in gender-inegalitarian societies and highlight the declining feasibility of marriage for low-educated men in such contexts. Findings also hint at important implications for inequality in a society such as Korea, where marriage remains a symbol of social success and is closely related to women’s economic well-being and men’s health and subjective well-being.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Assortative mating
- International marriage