Implications of China's future bride shortage for the geographical distribution and social protection needs of never-married men

Ethan Sharygin*, Avraham Ebenstein, Monica Das Gupta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Because sex ratios at birth have risen sharply in China in recent decades, an increasing proportion of men will be unable to find a bride, and will face old age without the support of a wife and children. We project the proportions of never-married men and their geographical distribution in China in the coming decades. Our projections assume that two tendencies in current marriage patterns will persist: that women will continue to migrate to wealthier areas and to prefer men with better prospects. We find that, by 2030, more than 20 per cent of men in China aged 30-39 will never have married, and that the proportion will be especially high among poor men in low-income provinces that are least able to provide social protection programmes. The projected geographic concentration of bachelors could be socially disruptive, and the results suggest a need to expand the coverage and central financing of social protection programmes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)39-59
Number of pages21
JournalPopulation Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
2 The authors thank the Hewlett Foundation for grant support through Trust Fund TF070424 given to the World Bank. They also gratefully acknowledge valuable feed-back from the following: Adam Wagstaff, Ardo Hansson, Philip O’Keefe, Junjian Yi, and other participants in the Chinese Economists’ Association Conference, Xiamen, June 2010; participants in the Population-Poverty Re-search Network’s Conference at Cape Town, January 2010; participants in a seminar at the Population Council, New York in February 2010; and participants in the Population Association of America’s annual meeting, April 2011. The authors also thank Michael Freedman, Joan Feng, Alison Flamm, Aviad Glick, and Susan Schwartz for excellent research assistance. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the World Bank or any affiliated organization or member country.


  • China
  • marriage market
  • missing girls
  • never-married men
  • old-age support
  • sex-selective abortion


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