Sex Differences in Recent Korean Nuptiality

by Kim Hyung-Seog, Master of Arts in Demography (1997)

Using the 1960-1990 census and vital statistics, this thesis examines sex differences in Korean nuptiality at various analytical perspectives. It focuses on three areas.

The first area relates to national and sub-national nuptiality trends and recent regional levels using directly estimated nuptiality indicators (SMAM and I-C). The main findings under this area are: (1) increasing delays in first marriage with females showing a long-term and larger change and with males exhibiting less and slower change in earlier periods but a much faster pace than females in the most recent quimqeunnium, especially in Myons (the rural areas); (2) an increasing trend, although still in the minority, in the proportion remaining single in their lifetimes, with more males than females choosing to be ever single, especially in the rural areas; and (3) slight regional differences, among males and females in nuptiality levels.

The second area pertains to recent actual marriage [patterns viewed in the context of homogamy (defined as “the legal union of persons of opposite sex with the same demographic, economic and social characteristics), heterogamy (“marry-up” or “marry-down”) or the legal union of persons of opposite sex with different demographic, economic and social characteristics in terms of region, age, marital status, education and occupation, and mate selection and of how unbalanced sex ratio or marriage squeeze is related to recent and actual marriage patterns. The main results of the analysis reveal that: (1) Korean marriages are mainly homogamous in terms of region, education and marital status but mainly heterogamous in the “marry-up” pattern in terms of age and occupation irrespective of urban-rural residence and regional aggregation except the island of Cheju which registers the highest level of homogamous marriages in terms of region, age, and occupation; (2) free choice marriage is becoming more [popular than arranged marriage, especially in urban areas; as expected, arranged marriage is more on heterogamy or the “marry-up” pattern in terms of ages and occupation while free choice marriage is more on homogamy. Unbalanced sex ratio or marriage squeeze is significantly associated with prevailing nuptiality patterns. When males substantially outnumber females, females tend to be selective of their male partners of the same marital status, who are older, have high income-generating occupation and high educational backgrounds.

The third area refers to the multivariate analysis using ordinary least squares technique in identifying thee net importance of availability of mates or unbalanced sex ratio, feasibility of marriage proxied by male economic activity and population size of locality, desirability of marriage indicated by female economic activity, female education and nu8mber of children per 100 married women and homogamy/heterogamy in influencing Korean nuptiality. The findings are: (1) unbalanced sex ratio significantly increases the average entry into first marriage of males and the proportion of males remaining single in their lifetime but decreases female marriage timing; (2) the number of children per 100 married women, and indicator of desirability of marriage is affecting males’ entry into first marriage and celibacy, and females’ entry into marriage; (3) population size of locality decreases male but increases female celibacy; (4) labor force participation rate of males aged 25-29 decreases the male SMAM; (5) education increases female celibacy; (6) intra-regional marriages or homogamy in terms of regions raises the proportion of females ever-marrying.

On the whole, Korea is undergoing substantial changes in nuptiality, explained mainly by a combination of demographic and socio-economic factors which are indicators of availability of mates, feasibility and desirability of marriage. Trends and patterns in nuptiality in Korea are different between males and females.