Changes in Homogamy and Heterogamy in the Era of Low Fertility of Korea

Myoung-Jin Lee, Korea University
Sina Park, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs
Yoon-Jeong Shin, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs
Laurent Toulemon, Institut National d’Études Démographiques

During the last decades, the level of educational attainment has increased to a great extent in Korea, like in all developed countries, and most countries in the world. In Korea, the proportion of highly educated is still higher among men than among women, but women-men gap in educational level is narrowing. Well-educated men are still highly valued in the marriage market, but today they are not as much sought after as they used to be. The increase in the educational attainment for Koreans, especially for women, has changed the characteristics of marriage. Age and educational hypergamy (the husband being older and more educated than his wife) was the dominant marriage norm; now more Korean couples are homogamous or even hypogamous in their marriage pattern. The difference in age between husbands and wives decreased as women’s age at first marriage increased. Husbands were often at least 4 years older than their wives before the 1980’s; now it’s often the case that women marry men their age or younger. Although husbands and wives have become much more equal in terms of educational attainment and age, women-men disparities are still prevalent in the labor market and housework. Close to 4 in ten hypergamic couples had 3 or more children, with an average number of 3.07 children, compared to 2.68 children for hypogamic couples. The contrast in fertility behavior between hypergamic couples and others may diminish in Korea, like in other developed countries.

Presented in Poster Session 1