Marriage Counterfactuals in Japan: Variation by Gender, Marital Status, and Time

Martin Piotrowski , University of Oklahoma
Erik Bond, Miyazaki International College
Ann M. Beutel, University of Oklahoma

Background This paper takes a unique perspective on the debate surrounding the deinstitutionalization of marriage. Rather than examining how diversification of family behaviors (external context) relates to marriage, it considers how perceptions of marriage (the internal context) vary across relevant stakeholders. Objective We ask whether perceived consequences of marriage differ for married vs. unmarried people and men vs. women and over time. Methods Based on data from the 1994 National Survey on Work and Family Life in Japan and the 2000 and 2009 National Survey of Family and Economic Conditions (NSFEC) in Japan (N = 8,467) we use unique measures of perceived consequences of marriage ( “marriage counterfactuals”) to examine social, economic, psychological, and personal dimensions (i.e., respect, living standard, emotional security, freedom, and overall satisfaction). Results Ordinal regression results reveal that marital perceptions worsened over time (especially in terms of living standard and freedom), consistent with worsening economic conditions. We also find that unmarried people tend to view marriage more favorably than their married counterparts (especially freedom and respect), while men view marriage consequences (except for living standard) more favorably than women. Conclusions Despite more negative change over time in perceptions of marriage among the never-married than the ever-married, the traditional breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage continues to be important and influential in Japan, and cultural beliefs regarding traditional marriage persist in spite of structural changes. Contribution Research and theory on family change should pay more attention to the internal marriage context more fully than it has in the past.

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 Presented in Session 99. Relationship Development