Work Units, State Regulation, and Rising Divorce Rates in China

Yifeng Wan , Johns Hopkins University

The high and rising divorce rate in China is not easily reconciled with traditional theories that emphasize the role of modernization in changing family life. By reformulating the state social engineering theory, this paper argues that the retreat of the state from private life has contributed to China's rising divorce rates in the past four decades. A divorce reform that simplified divorce procedures and the declining significance of the work unit are two mechanisms through which the retreating state may influence divorce rates. Results from province-level panel data set suggest that smaller share of employment in state and collective work units is associated with higher divorce rates. The diminishing function of institutional control accounts for the effect of the work unit on rising divorce rates.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions