label r shifted
Session B3
Gender and Inequality: Marriages across Borders and Boundaries in Taiwan from a Comparative Perspective
Zhenchao Qian
Department of Sociology, Brown University, USA
蔡明璋 Ming-Chang Tsai
Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies(RCHSS), Academia Sinica, Taiwan

In recent decades, marriages between Taiwanese and non-Taiwanese were relatively common. Because the Taiwanese involved in such cross-border marriages were likely to be less educated and from rural areas, there were concerns regarding how their spouses fare and integrate in Taiwan. The spouses are mostly from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, and Southeast Asia. We posit that the characteristics of such spouses and assortative mating patterns among individuals of cross-border marriages are associated with relative social and economic positions among the four regions.


Nativity or border is a social boundary. When border boundaries are strong, pairings between husbands and wives among cross-border marriages may involve status exchange as men of disadvantaged characteristics from a high position region tend to marry women of more advantaged characteristics from a lower position region. We put forward three hypotheses. First, more men than women from a high position region marry individuals from a lower position region. Second, in a high position region, lower SES men are more likely to form cross-border marriages than their high SES counterparts, due to difficulties of low SES men to find desirable marriageable partners within the region. And third, when regional SES inequalities decline, the likelihood of cross-border marriages may decrease because women in a lower position region may have less incentives to marry across borders due to declines of benefits in status exchange. Alternatively, positive assortative mating in other attributes may emerge between the husband and wife in cross-border marriages.


For our analysis, we use data from the Life Needs Surveys of Foreign and Mainland Spouses in Taiwan in 2003, 2008, and 2013. Our analytic sample consists of cross-border marriages formed in the previous year(s). We document per capita income in Taiwan, mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, and Southeast Asia in these three years to assess relative positions and temporal changes in relative positions. We then test the three hypotheses. First, we explore gender differences in cross-border marriages and whether gender differences in cross-border marriages are explained by relative regional SES positions. Second, we study how couples met (on their own or introduced by relatives, other people, or businesses), which helps understand the rationale for cross-border marriages. Third, we compare men’s and women’s marital order, age and education patterns among cross-border marriages and investigate how such patterns change over time and whether husband or wife is from Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, or Southeast Asia. Finally, we apply log-linear models to study temporal changes in the association between the husband and wife regarding marital order, age, and education of both spouses. Because an overwhelming majority of such marriages involves men in Taiwan and women elsewhere, we conduct the analysis by limiting the husband to be from Taiwan and the wife from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, and Southeast Asia.


Our analysis will shed light on how gender plays a role in cross-border marriages – women are far more likely than men to be the marriage migrant, traveling far to a strange land for the husband whom they know little in pursuit of better socioeconomic lives. In addition, our analysis will reveal the strong associations between relative regional SES positions and prevalence of cross-border marriages. One likely finding is that an improved SES position of a low position region may reduce the likelihood of cross-border marriages and possibly empower women to stay put – either remaining non-married through economic independence or forming a match with men of stronger SES status in the region.