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Large Shocks and Small Changes in the Marriage Market for Famine Born Cohorts in China

By Loren Brandt, Aloysius Siow and Carl Vogel

Abstract

Between 1958 and 1961, China experienced one of its worst famines in history. Birth rates plummeted during these years, but recovered immediately afterwards. The famine-born cohorts were relatively scarce in the marriage and labor markets. The famine also adversely affected the health of these cohorts. This paper decomposes these two effects on the marital outcomes of the famine-born and adjacent cohorts in the rural areas of two hard hit provinces, Sichuan and Anhui. Individuals born pre and post-famine, who were in surplus relative to their customary spouses, were able to marry. Using the Choo Siow model of marriage matching, the paper shows that the famine substantially reduced the marital attractiveness of the famine born cohort. The modest decline in educational attainment of the famine born cohort does not explain the change in spousal quality of that cohort. Thus, the famine-born cohort, who were relatively scarce compared with their customary spouses, did not have significant above average marriage rates.famine, marriage market, Choo Siow, China

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