Gender, rural-urban inequality, and intermarriage in China

Ching Wu Lake LUI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the marriage market in urban China through the lens of intersectionality, investigating how structural inequalities shape rural-urban intermarriage preferences and opportunities. Using 134 semistructured interviews with participants from migrant-sending and -receiving regions of China, I find that China's household registration system (hukou), which assigns people to “rural” or “urban,” creates a social hierarchy favorable to urban people. This hierarchy, in turn, creates a hukou-based gender system in which various types of masculinities and femininities are constructed along rural-urban lines. These masculinities and femininities then guide preferences for intermarriage among different groups. The urban form of masculinity is revered by most women, while rural migrant men find urban femininity undesirable. Rural femininity is agreeable to most urban and rural hukou holders, yet less so among urban local men for fear of status loss. I find that urban local husbands who marry rural migrant women either live on the social margins or are paired with rural wives that display urban ideals of beauty and manners, compensating for their “rural” disadvantages. Overall, people's intermarriage preferences illuminate the persistence of hukou barriers and gender inequalities. Copyright © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-662
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
Early online dateNov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Lui, L. (2016). Gender, rural-urban inequality, and intermarriage in China. Social Forces, 95(2), 639-662.


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