Beijing’s efforts, which appear to be intended to help lower-income men, seem unlikely to have an immediate impact on increasing the marriage rate.

After all, the fundamental reason for the emergence and proliferation of hefty bride prices is the country’s highly skewed sex ratio at birth, which is a result of families’ long-standing preference for male babies. Last year, China had nearly 35 million more men than women.

To reverse the trend, Beijing in 2015 abolished its one-child policy that had prompted families to have abortions of female babies, but so far the policy change hasn’t yielded many results. In part, ideas about the ideal family size for many women (and men) of childbearing age have likely been deeply set by their own experiences as only children.

Added to that, Chinese women with higher career aspirations are increasingly aware of the discrimination they face in job hiring from employers concerned they may take childcare leave, as well as the skewed childcare responsibilities that fall on them in family life. Given these norms, “healthy” wedding customs led by Party ideology probably won’t be much of a motivation to tie the knot.

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