Objective: Drawing on the preference-opportunity framework of union formation, we compare patterns of assortative mating on education and age between first marriages and remarriages in contemporary China.

Background: Family change in China is characterized by a decline in first marriages, an increasing divorce rate, and a growing number of remarriages, like in many Western countries. Assortative mating plays a key role in the (re)production of socioeconomic inequality, but research on marital sorting in remarriages remains limited, especially in non-Western contexts.

Method: Our analysis drew on pooled, nationally-representative data from six waves of the Chinese General Social Survey and China Family Panel Studies between 2010 and 2015 (N = 48,737 individuals). We used log-linear models to examine educational assortative mating patterns and multinomial logit regressions to analyze age assortative mating patterns.  

Results: Educational homogamy was more likely to occur in first marriages than in remarriages. Compared with marrying a similarly-aged spouse, both previously-married men and women were more likely than their never-married counterparts to marry a much older spouse and less likely to marry a much younger spouse.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that remarriage is incompletely institutionalized in China in that the rules underpinning the systematic pairing of spouses with similar traits in first marriages are less salient in configuring the assortative mating patterns in remarriages. The results highlight the importance of marriage order—as a resource for the never married and a disadvantage for the previously married—in shaping the preference-opportunity structure in the Chinese marriage market.


Keywords: Age, Assortative Mating, Education, Gender, Marriage, Remarriage.