Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

The Significance of Cross-Border Marriage in a Low Fertility Society: Evidence from Taiwan

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

The Significance of Cross-Border Marriage in a Low Fertility Society: Evidence from Taiwan

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Chinese tradition has viewed the family as the primary societal unit, so that the interests of individuals were generally secondary to those of the family. To extend the family lineage into the future through childbearing, early and universal marriage was regarded as a typical feature in the process of family formation. Because of the influx of single military men in the late 1940s and a slightly imbalanced sex ratio at birth, the surplus of men relative to women across all years should have increased the prevalence of female marriage. However, despite the favorable marriage market for women, marriage rates have significantly declined for both genders during recent decades. The later and less marriage probably were the results of the economic and social forces transforming in Taiwan. An evaluation of the precise forces causing the change in individual marital preferences and behavior has shown a strong link between education and late ages at marriage (Thornton and Lin, 1994).

Due to the sex-selective rural-urban migration, the sex imbalance in the rural population has even worsened with the progress of industrialization and urbanization (Lee, et al., 2006). Facing a shortage of marriageable women, many rural and economically disadvantageous Taiwanese men are forced to look abroad. Cross-border marriage has increased rapidly since the late 1980s. Most brides came from China, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia, but only a smaller number of Taiwanese women married foreign husbands. In 2007, the official statistics show there were 21,559 marriages between Taiwanese men and non-Taiwanese women and only 3,141 marriages involving foreign men. Together, these account for more than 18% of overall marriages registered in the same year.

Since intermarriage has long been a source of anxiety within the family and the society, the prevalence of marriage migration across borders in East Asia is receiving attention from scholars and policymakers. Considerable efforts have been made to explore the marriage process, migration regulations and policy, adaptation in daily life, and stigmatization of foreign spouses in Taiwan (Chao, 2004; Hsia, 2000, 2006, 2007; Wang and Chang, 2002; Wang and Bélanger, 2008). However, there are only few studies, mainly in medical sciences, focusing on the reproductive behaviors of marriage immigrants and their subsequent sociodemographic impact. Would cross-border marriage be an alternative solution for raising Taiwan's low birthrate? At this moment, there is no single answer to this question. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to provide an overview of the sociodemographic characteristics and reproductive behaviors of marriage immigrants in recent times. The analysis is based on information from the 2003 Survey of Foreign and Mainland Chinese Spouses' Living Conditions. In addition to highlighting the trend and reasons accounting for the emergence of cross-border marriages, the overall fertility behaviors and outcomes are represented. In the final part of the present study's multivariate analysis, the Poisson regression model is used to examine the fertility differentials across immigrant groups.

RECENT CHANGES BV MARRIAGE FORMATION AND BIRTH OUTCOME

Marriage Patterns in Transition

Drawing on marriage theories that have been proposed and tested empirically, the changes in marriage patterns are generally associated with three social forces, the influence of the social groups (third parties) in the selection process, the preferences of marriage candidates, and the constraints of the marriage market (Kalmijn, 1998). Marital selection is not only a process involving two potential partners but is also affected by third parties such as the family, the community or neighborhood, and the state. The Taiwanese marriage system has long been characterized by emphasizing the compatibility between two marrying families based on socioeconomic status, cultural and ethnic background, and the inherited values. …

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