This paper examines whether the rise in the age at first marriage among women observed across many countries in the post-war era reflects postponement or abandonment of marriage. On both theoretical and empirical grounds, we reject the oft-cited Economic Independence hypothesis, which argues that rising educational attainment and employment among women have weakened the rationale for marriage, leading more women to forego marriage. Instead, using a human capital approach, we argue that rising educational and economic opportunity would lead women to postpone, but not abandon, marriage in order to complete more human capital investment early in the life course. Empirical analysis applied to an original data set for Hong Kong women broadly supports our hypothesis. Specifically, the use of hazard analysis shows that educational and career attainment among women in our sample reduce their marriage rates, but this effect tends to diminish over the life course. This result is further supported by applying survey analysis on the same sample. Specifically, women with higher educational attainment and career attainment actually expressed a stronger desire for marriage, albeit at a late age.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science