‘Gender Revolution,’ Globalization, and Educational Assortative Mating: New Evidence from Japan

Fukuda, Setsuya, and James Raymo
Working paper no. 2018-06


Weakening or reversal of the negative educational gradient in women’s marriage represents a profound shift in patterns of family formation in many high-income countries. However, efforts to explain this shift in the “economic foundations of marriage” have been limited in both theoretical scope and geographical focus. In this paper, we articulated two mechanisms of change by drawing upon one broad theoretical framework focusing on “gender revolution” and another emphasizing processes of globalization and associated trends in labor market bifurcation. We used harmonic-mean two-sex marriage models to generate evidence with which to evaluate hypotheses derived from these two alternative, but not mutually exclusive, explanations for change in the educational gradient in marriage. Our analyses of Japanese data from 1990-2008 showed that the negative educational gradient in women’s first marriage disappeared in the late 2000s. This change was brought about by a combination of declines in the marriage rates of less-educated women and increases in the marriage rates of highly-educated women. The former finding is consistent with expectations derived from the globalization framework whereas the latter is consistent with the gender revolution framework.