Bridal Pregnancy and Spouse Pairing Patterns in Japan

Raymo, James, and Miho Iwasawa
Working paper no. 2007-10


Very low levels of nonmarital childbearing in Japan obscure important changes in the relationship between marriage and fertility. In this paper, we first describe trends in marriages preceded by pregnancy (bridal pregnancy) and examine educational differentials in this pattern of family formation. We then evaluate the extent to which bridal pregnancy is associated with less desirable spouse pairings. Using data on over 26,500 marriages between 1970 and 2002, we estimate multinomial logistic regression models to evaluate change over time in the association between bridal pregnancy and the relative odds of marrying up, down, or homogamously with respect to educational attainment. Results indicate that, for women with at least a high school education, bridal pregnancy is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of a “less desirable” pairing and that this relationship has become more pronounced over time. This is particularly true for marriages taking place in the 1990s and for marriages involving relatively young brides. We conclude by discussing potential implications of increasing bridal pregnancy and associated patterns of spouse pairing for subsequent variation in marital stability and well-being.