Academic journal article Demographic Research

Transition to Adulthood in China in 1982-2005: A Structural View

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Transition to Adulthood in China in 1982-2005: A Structural View

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The transition to adulthood includes certain trajectories, such as leaving school, entering the labor force, getting married, and having children. These transitions have been increasingly postponed, shuffled, and individualized in the United States and Western Europe (for reviews, see Buchmann and Kriesi 2011; Settersten and Bay 2010; Shanahan 2000). Less is known about changes in the transition to adulthood in nonWestern countries, especially whether they follow a similar pattern of change. Some research suggests that aspects of these changes mimic those of the West (Lesthaeghe 2010; Lloyd 2005). Others suggest that the changes are path-dependent (Furstenberg 2013; Fussell 2005; Grant and Furstenberg 2007; Yeung and Alipio 2013; Yeung and Hu 2013). Furthermore, the research in non-Western countries uses diverse indicators to measure the transition to adulthood that hinder comparisons with each other and to Western countries. Life course theory (Elder, Johnson, and Crosnoe 2003) suggests that the meaning of single transitions differs depending on when they occur in the life course, where they fit within a large sequence, and how they vary in a population. Thus it is useful to take a structural view, tracing changes in the timing and sequencing of transitions as well as the distribution of these transitions at the population level.

This article provides a structural view of the patterns of change in the transition to adulthood in China from 1982 to 2005. In these years, China experienced massive economic and social transformations with increases in economic uncertainty and individual autonomy (Bramall 2009; Tang and Parish 2000). To trace the changes we use a synthetic cohort approach by comparing the distribution of transitions among census participants aged 18-30 years in four population data sources: the 1982, 1990, and 2000 censuses and the 2005 mini-census. We organize the analyses by subgroups divided by gender and household registration status. In China, the rigid gender division of household labor attaches family transitions to distinct meanings and responsibilities for men and women (Parish and Farrer 2000). The recent and rising gender gap in earnings and promotion opportunities highlights these gender differences (Zhang, Hannum, and Wang 2008). Additionally, by categorizing Chinese populations into two broadly defined groups of urban and rural, household registration status constitutes a key dimension in the Chinese stratification system that is critical for individuals' life chances (Chan 2013; Wu and Treiman 2004; Xie and Zhou 2013).

2. Data and methods

2.1 Data and measures

This analysis uses samples from four population data sources: Chinese censuses collected in 1982, 1990, and 2000, and a 2005 mini-census that comprises a 1% sample of the Chinese population. The samples from the 1982 and 1990 censuses are 1% random samples, harmonized by the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series - International project. Our sample from the 2000 census is a .095% random sample and the 2005 mini-census is a 20% random sample. To make the sample sizes comparable, we draw a 10% random sample from the 1982 and 1990 samples. For all four samples, we limit young adults to those between the ages 18 and 30 (Rindfuss 1991).

The adulthood transitions are measured in four statuses: school attendance, employment status, marital status, and parental status. Because the parental status was collected exclusively for women, women in our analysis have four statuses and men have three. The four statuses are coded as dichotomous variables that equal 1 if the respondents occupy the status and 0 otherwise2.

2.2 Methods

The analysis is organized by gender and residence (urban or rural). Residence is distinguished by permanent household registration status (hukou).3 Urban residents are measured as those with urban hukou who lived in the registered hukou place at the time of survey. Likewise, rural residents are measured as those with rural hukou who lived in the registered hukou place at the time of the survey. …

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