MPIDR Working Paper

Age at marriage and marital stability: evidence from China

García-Hombrados, J., Ozcan, B.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2022-014, 44 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (März 2022)


Many studies showed that marrying younger is associated with a higher risk of divorce. We investigate the causal effect of marrying at an earlier age on women’s divorce risk. We exploit the introduction of the 1981 reform in China, which facilitated legal marriage for urban women younger than 25 years old, using the Chinese Census data. We show that the reform generated a kink in the mean age at marriage for women, which we use in a fuzzy regression kink design (RKD) to assess the causal effect of marrying younger on the probability of divorce. First, we confirm in our data the existence of a negative (in fact, a U-shaped) association between age at marriage and divorce, as commonly observed in previous studies from the USA. Then, we show that this association disappears in our analyses based on RKD. This finding suggests that the well-documented association between early marriage and divorce is in fact attributable to unobservable factors driving both marriage timing and the likelihood of divorce. We discuss the implications. Keywords: Age at marriage, divorce, legal age of marriage, China. JEL codes: J12.

Schlagwörter: China, age at marriage
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.