Assortative Mating on Only-Child Status
and Economic Inequality in Contemporary China



This study examines a new type of assortative mating and its economic consequences. Previous research has suggested that economically better-off individuals tend to marry each other, which further affects the macro-level economic inequality. In the case of China, differential fertility, reinforced by the implementation of the One-Child Policy, results in a situation that only children on average come from higher status families. Therefore, we hypothesize that 1) as the only-child status signals a better earning potential and a more promising prospect of wealth inheritance, only children have economic incentives to marry each other; 2) this kind of marital sorting contributes to the economic advantages of only-child couples (both wife and husband only children) over non-only-child couples. By adopting data from the Chinese Family Panel Studies, we demonstrate that growing up as an only child has a positively significant effect on marrying another only child. In addition, by exploiting the plausibly exogenous shock of China's One-Child Policy, we show that only-child couples generally earn higher income, receive more monetary transfer and own more expensive homes than other married couples. These findings reveal that the One-Child Policy unintentionally maintained or even enlarged disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged social groups.


Keywords: one-child policy, differential fertility, assortative mating, economic inequality, natural experiment