Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations


Changes in Marital Dissolution Patterns Among Chinese and Chinese Immigrants: An Origin-Destination Analysis

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Sociology/Population Studies

First Advisor

Jennifer Van Hook


Whether new Asian immigrant groups assimilate into American divorce culture the longer they stay in the U.S. is not well studied, nor is it clear how marital dissolution patterns change across immigrant generations. My research goal is to examine current trends and patterns of marital dissolution among Chinese and assess whether Chinese in the U.S. have more stable marriages than Chinese in China. The specific analyses conducted are designed to test hypotheses based on the assimilation, selection and abruption effect frameworks (Singley and Landale 1998). Several datasets, including China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) and China 1990 Census, were used to examine the complexity of marriage and divorce in China. For Chinese immigrants in the US, the 1990 and 2000 Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) were used. Overall, despite much speculation about rising divorce rates in China, the rates remain relatively low. In general, my findings show that Chinese immigrants, especially the newly-arrived female immigrants from China, are more likely to divorce/separate. This suggests that U.S. society has given women more leverage to choose their spouse and to be less tolerant of bad marriages. There was some evidence of an abruption effect among the less-educated Chinese male immigrants as they displayed even lower divorce rates compared to their male counterparts in China. Also, there is some weak evidence for the assimilation hypothesis among Chinese men over the generations, but not among Chinese women. Moreover, there is no evidence for the segmented assimilation hypothesis, as divorce rates among the highly educated Chinese are not similar to the upper middle class Americans, and divorce rates among the less-educated Chinese do not resemble the divorce patterns of working class Americans either. Furthermore, mixed marriages involving Asians are less stable than Asian endogamous marriages. For Chinese, however, the most unstable marriage is between foreign-born and American-born Chinese or Chinese with American citizenship. This suggests that there are Chinese who are trying to take advantage of the American immigration system and use marriage as a tool to achieve their goal of immigrating to the U.S.