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Hard to get: The scarcity of women and the competition for high-income men in urban China

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  • Ong, David
  • Yang, Yu
  • Zhang, Junsen

Abstract

Reports of the difficulties of elite women in finding suitable mates have been increasing despite the growing availability and value of men in China. We rationalize this “leftover women” phenomenon within the directed/competitive search framework, which uniquely allows for equilibrium crowding out. Within this framework, we show that the leftover women phenomenon can be the result of women’s aversion to men who have a lower income than themselves (hereafter, ALM) and the long-predicted complementarity between women’s non-market traits (in particular, beauty) and male earnings. For high-income (h-)women, even when high-income (H-)men are more plentiful and richer, the direct effect of the greater number of desirable men can be overwhelmed by the indirect effect of competitive ‘entry’ by low-income (l-)women, particularly, the beautiful. We test for these competitive search effects using online dating field experimental, Census, and household survey data. Consistent with the competitive entry of l-women, when sex ratio and H-men’s income increase, the search intensity of beautiful l-women for H-men increases. In response to this competitive entry, plain h-women, who are constrained by their ALM to search predominantly for H-men, also increase the search intensity. However, only their marriage probability decreases. Our evidence is consistent with intra-female competitive search for spouses who can cover the labor market opportunity cost of marriage and childbirth, which increases with a woman’s income.

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  • Ong, David & Yang, Yu & Zhang, Junsen, 2020. "Hard to get: The scarcity of women and the competition for high-income men in urban China," MPRA Paper 98166, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:98166
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    Cited by:

    1. Cassar, Alessandra & Zhang, Y. Jane, 2022. "The competitive woman: Evolutionary insights and cross-cultural evidence into finding the Femina Economica," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 197(C), pages 447-471.
    2. Gigi Foster & Leslie S. Stratton, 0. "Does female breadwinning make partnerships less healthy or less stable?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 0, pages 1-34.
    3. Ong, David & Yang, Yu (Alan) & Zhang, Junsen, 2020. "Hard to get: The scarcity of women and the competition for high-income men in urban China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C).
    4. Gigi Foster & Leslie S. Stratton, 2021. "Does female breadwinning make partnerships less healthy or less stable?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(1), pages 63-96, January.
    5. David Ong, 2022. "The college admissions contribution to the labor market beauty premium," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(3), pages 491-512, July.
    6. Nie, Guangyu, 2020. "Marriage squeeze, marriage age and the household savings rate in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C).
    7. You, Jing & Yi, Xuejie & Chen, Meng, 2021. "Love, life, and “leftover ladies” in urban China: Staying modernly single in patriarchal traditions," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    directed search; marriage; sex ratio; online dating; aversion to lower income men; beauty;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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