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Marriage Costs in China Are Out of Control (bloomberg.com)
129 points by tango24 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 123 comments



I would like to see an equivalent study on Indian weddings. All the people I know who got married recently spent between $50-$100k on their wedding. My own wedding was about $50k. Food alone was nearly $20k (over 1200 guests were invited - which was on the low end)


Genuine question: how is it possible to invite 1200 people? I can't imagine that you and your partner know 600 people each, I'd have a hard time finding 100 people to invite if I needed too


It’s not so important about who the groom and bride knows, it’s more about everyone the groom and bride’s parents and grandparents know also.

It’s more of a “bring the whole tribe together” affair, but only makes sense in villages when food and labor was cheap. But that was within the grandparents’ and parents’ lifetimes so it still lingers around, only now it’s a status symbol to show how well you’ve made it, and of course, some (most?) people choose to over extend themselves and choose to show off to the tribe rather than invest in their own future. Especially since the “tribe” is further and further away from the original rural villages which were geographically next to each other.

The new tribes are split along educational and wealth boundaries, so anyone who thinks wasting money entertaining the tribe will help keep them in it is sorely mistaken.


In Chinese weddings, when you invite your friends, you also invite their relatives and families as well. It can definitely add up.

And it's not just you inviting people, but your parents and their parents.

It's not uncommon to actually not know 2/3s of the people at your wedding.

The best part however is that each guest will give you a "red envelope" of money. It's basically the wedding gift. The more people you invite, the more money you can possibly make (even after the expenses of the wedding).

This money is then used for the new coupe to start their family.


I was chatting with a retired couple. They told me that wedding red envelopes are the majority of their monthly expenditure. They're at the age where all their friends' kids are getting married. (They don't live in the capital, so I guess their rent is cheap or they own their apartment.)


Oh easy, I just attended a wedding reception where over 2500 were invited. It was one of the biggest I have seen but 1000 is normal. My father had 10 siblings and my mother 6. You got to invite all their relatives, kids and your own friends, you can easily cross 1000. I guess its the huge population in India and China.


Attending weddings must be a frequent activity if you get invited when anyone within 3 or more degrees of separation is getting married. Really, how often does an average Indian attend weddings? Are expensive gifts expected?


Yes it is. Also for Hindus it's based on seasons(Auspicious months). During season period there could be 4-5 or more marriages a month, sometimes 2-3 happening on the same day.

For distant relatives no gift is expected, but people do give cash(1000rs avg). For close relatives it's mostly gold. You are supposed to return equal or more than you received for your sons/daughters marriage. It can average 8gms of 22k gold (cost upto 30000rs) which is not a small amount.

Also all of these varies between states, religions and caste. For e.g no one expects dowry in West Bengal while in neighbouring state you are expected to give hefty dowries.


Chinese choose auspicious monthes and days too although nowadays I don't think people care as much but I think some still do who want to have a bit of tradition.


I'm not indian but before moving to usa, attending wedding is one of the common weekend activities.


In many cultures (including western ones, like the UK) the wedding is a party thrown by the parents of the bride, not by the couple. So the parents of the bride will invite all their friends, as well as the couple's friends. The older parents will have a much larger social circle, due to being older.


I had just about 10 friends. Wife had the same number.

My father in law has lived all his life in the same city. Has a lot of friends, acquaintances, and relatives. Inviting them to the wedding becomes a social compulsion in such cases.

Indian weddings are strange in that the bride and groom hardly matter. It's essentially an event hosted by their parents.

Trying to get my parents to back down from a big wedding was a futile exercise as well. For them, it was a matter of "shame" if they couldn't host a large wedding


I am been involved in 4 marriages including myself where the total guest list neared 600. You would need to invite your siblings families if they are married. Then your father's and mother's family. Their extended family. Your grandfather grandmother's family. Their extended family. Your neighbors, office guys, friends. Both groom and bride and you would have a number near to 600.


Is the view on smaller marriages changing with the generations?

I had 8 guests at my marriage and reception (France, 1995). It was purely by choice (no money constraints involved) and while the parents were a bit surprised, their opinion is that it was our marriage, not theirs.

This is unusual but when I mention that people are either indifferent or curious. Nobody takes this as "socially degrading" (for lack of a better expression)


OK, but most people in the world simply can't afford that, so you must be an outlier.


People frequently take loans and sell assets to afford weddings. It's not unusual for parents to save for weddings right after their child is born.

One friend's parents sold off their car to fund their daughter's wedding

It's honestly all absurd


Seems expensive but, don't forget, at least in chinese weddings you can recoup most of the expense back, from collecting the 'red envelope'. For some couple it even exceed the expense.


Things have already changed. It's becoming more and more common in rural China to marry South East Asian women from places like Vietnam and Cambodia... which of course potentially spreads the problem

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/too-many-...


These are house down payment prices.

My wife and I eloped and were married for a total of $270 in Las Vegas (25 years ago). It is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have heard lots of people complain that they spent too much time, money and psychological goodwill on their elaborate marriage events, but I have never heard someone say they regretted a simple inexpensive wedding.


There are studies that the larger the bed (at home) and the fancier the reception, the shorter the marriage. But more friends means longer marriage. Basically a barbecue with heaps of mates predicts the longest marriages.

Of course the stats above are the land of correlations-not-causations; larger bed may mean financially more stable therefore more independant and less dependent on the partner’s income, or similar. Still fun ;)


Markets always appear next to scarcity, and laws against market operations always drive transactions underground, because supply and demand must be made to meet somehow. Without expressing approval per se of what's happening in China, I do have to express a total lack of surprise that people react to scarcity in one area in the same way they react to scarcity in every other.

Extreme gender imbalances are societally destabilizing, and the Chinese government, which is obsessed with social stability, should have reacted much faster once it noticed the gender gap in newborns. Now, it's too late, and a generation will be unhappy.


It's not too late.

China is lucky in that they border a country with the opposite problem [1]:

> One feature of the Russian-Chinese relationship seemed especially telling: Cross-border marriages are overwhelmingly between Chinese men and Russian women. Much of this has to do with demographics—Russia has a surplus of women, while China has too many men.

In addition, the demographics issue might be overstated as many of the 'missing women' started to be 'found' once they turned 18 and needed to officially register with the government [2]:

> The researchers believe local government officials informally worked with farmers and acknowledged that they couldn't fully enforce the one-child policy. Instead they made tacit agreements in allowing families to have extra children in exchange for social stability in their communities. The cadres, or local governments, would then under-report “out of plan” births that ultimately influenced the national population statistics.

> To supplement the qualitative data, the researchers then examined Chinese population data by cohort, and they compared the number of children born in 1990 with the number of 20-year-old Chinese men and women in 2010. In that cohort, they discovered 4 million additional people, and of those there were approximately 1 million more women than men.

> "If we go over a course of 25 years, it's possible there are about 25 million women in the statistics that weren't there at birth," Kennedy said.

1. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/dispatches/f...

2. https://news.ku.edu/2016/11/22/study-finds-chinas-missing-gi...


(Can't seem to edit my post so I'll add an additional comment)

One of biggest issues with the 1-child policy is that it affected the middle class much more severely than the ultra-wealth and the rural countryfolk,

> Min was born in 1986, six years after the one-child policy came into effect. She is the second of five children, a reflection of lax enforcement of family planning in the Hebei farming village where she grew up. (Min's father told me that one family in the village had six children; another man, who had fathered seven children, had been the village chief.)

> Min herself, along with everyone she knows, has two children.

> When history's largest social experiment in state-regulated childbearing comes to an end, it will have been borne disproportionately by the Chinese urban middle-class. The elaborate machinery built to enforce these policies barely touched Min at all. She was ignored by the government, living at the margins--in China, that's often the best place to be.

https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/03/why-the-on...


Interesting point, I've never heard of this.

Why are girls more likely to be the hidden children, though? Does cultural preference for a son mean "well, he's the favorite anyway, may as well make it official"?


It's more about logistics.

If the firstborn is a girl, the parents might try to have more kids until they have a boy. And if their family registry already says they have a kid, they might run into some bureaucratic issues that might prevent them from having more kids.

If their firstborn is a boy, they will just register him. And if they choose to have more kids after that, be it a girl or a boy, they are forced to leave them off the family registry. In this case, since they already have a son, they might not be too worried about running into issues.


> Extreme gender imbalances are societally destabilizing

Imagine what will happen in Northern Europe after the large influx of asian single men who will want to marry in a few years.

China - 114 men for 100 women (wikipedia) Sweden - 123 men for 100 women (BBC) https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35444173


As stated in the article, most of these men/youth have the opportunity for bringing over their families which would smooth-en out the gender imbalances.


But possibly not within their age cohort; that 123:100 ratio is within the 16-17 year bracket, not in Sweden as a whole.


Are gender imbalances destabilising historically? It woild be interesting to see the history. After wars there was lack of men in some areas. Excess of men was during gold rush, in Australia and is in silicon valley.

(I am not sure how much it proves or disproved theory.)


As a positive twist, women got the vote in New Zealand partly because of fears that a surplus of rowdy men 'on the frontier' would cause problems. Giving women the vote would give families more leverage in Parliament.


We had a similar phenomenon in the US, with the "frontier" territories being among the first places to allow women to vote (at the local level), years before US Constitution was ammended to make it nation-wide.

https://constitutioncenter.org/timeline/html/cw08_12159.html


Fears by who(m)? There must be some interesting partisan politics you are barely hinting at.


https://theconversation.com/why-new-zealand-was-the-first-co...

Women as moral citizens

As a “colonial frontier”, New Zealand had a surplus of men, especially in resource towns. Pragmatically, this placed a premium on women for their part as wives, mothers and moral compasses.

There was a fear of a chaotic frontier full of marauding single men. This colonial context saw conservative men who supported family values supporting suffrage. During the 1880s, depression and its accompanying poverty, sexual licence and drunken disorder further enhanced women’s value as settling maternal figures. Women voters promised a stabilising effect on society.


In China, yes, very much so. Historically, when gender imbalances have gotten to the levels in the current statistics, rebellion and violent millenarian religious cults have found fertile ground, when times turned tougher. Having an excess of downtrodden single men without much to lose is not a great situation for stability anywhere.


Thank you. How did it happened? They killed female babies?


It's been a considerable time since I was doing coursework on that period, but in broad strokes I recall it went something like this:

1.) Culturally, there was a broad understanding that males remain within their birth family lineages, whereas women leave and join their husband's family.

2.) Male children were expected to provide for their parents in old age, whereas (again if I recall correctly) it was customary to offer a dowry when female children were married.

3.) As a result wealth tended to transfer from female-heavy lineages to male-heavy lineages.

4.) When new land was available, or technology or new crops could make old land more productive, this effect was manageable, but increased pressure when population butted up against technical limits of agriculture, so that additional new arable land (wealth) could not be easily made available. Particularly when infrastructure and ecological failures strained or reduced the capacity of productive land. In that more zero-sum environment, male children were correspondingly more valuable, and there were upticks in female infanticide.

There's another dynamic in play with regards to the Chinese bureaucratic governmental system, which only men could take advantage of - in the archtypical system, entry into the bureacratic class was at least nominally meritocratic, and through grueling work and education, one could become eligible to take and pass the examinations to gain the bureaucratic degrees, which conferred massive benefits, which were again expected to accrue to not only the newly-minted official, but their family groups. So there are instances of family lineages and even entire villages pooling their resources behind a favored son, investing massively in classical education in hopes of hitting the lottery that way.


Thank you.


Are gender imbalances destabilising historically? It woild be interesting to see the history.

I've often wondered to what extent it explains the situation in Afghanistan. If there is a shortage of women anyway due to poor healthcare and other factors, and some men get to have multiple wives, what do the other men do?


Might have more to do with armies (Russian) making Afghanistan their playground in the past and Americans sponsor in resistance (terrorism) to defend.


assuming those in control are there for meritocracy and are competent and that's why are there, they would have reacted, but no, are there due to their parens/people they know, and bribes.


Same in india its called the dowry system. But now women are employed more and guess what its not changing as much it should be. Its strange that the educated employed women is expecting dowry from her parents to give it to her husbands(in most cases). The core problem is its considered a status issue. If the grand marriages are not celebrated and looked down then this might change.


I think the title is misleading: its not really marriage costs, its a payment to the bride/parents to account for the gender disparity in China caused by sex-selective abortions.

These bride costs should be allowed to climb infinitely, because it will serve as an incentive for families to have girls - and actually sex-selectively abort boys.

Unfortunately we are seeing all this in the West, where Asian migrants to countries like Australia are still selectively aborting girls. The difference is that other ethnicities are not, so those Asian boys can then grow up to marry girls from other communities, and a female shortage is pushed onto the whole of society. Its basically a tragedy of the commons.


> These bride costs should be allowed to climb infinitely, because it will serve as an incentive for families to have girls

Wow, a market correction to counteract societal undervaluation of females. If it could happen that would be profoundly constructive, but attitudes about gender are durable. It's not hard to imagine that instead of letting the price rise to incentivize an increase in supply, we could see see price fixing and rationing instead: the exertion of greater control over scarce resources and backwards progress in women's rights.


How would you have price fixing and rationing? At most you could have that on the legal market, but the black market would never tolerate that, and it would only drive the (unofficial) price for women even higher.

Besides a great deal of the reasons the girls were aborted or killed were because in China a parent can count only on the support of their sons, not because Chinese parents don't love their daughters.


> How would you have price fixing and rationing?

For example, by enacting laws which retard women's economic and geographic mobility, so that fewer are able to leave the local market.

> not because Chinese parents don't love their daughters.

Devaluation of women as a class is entirely compatible with love for individuals.


Not true. Inter-racial marriages are actually very rare in all western countries, just a drop in bucket (although they are more visible because of our tendency to remember surprises more often than norms). Usually Asian boys would travel back to their home country and marry someone from there based on their much better economic status.


Who cares what first generation immigrants do? Their children won’t do it and they’ll be a hell of a lot more acculturated than their parents ever will be. They won’t be doing sec selective abortion any more than those who are unhyphenated Australians.


Son-preference persists among second-generation migrants:

https://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2018/06/19/jech-2018-2106...

And migration is ongoing - so the effects will continually be felt. Its not as if the intake is a once-off. I think its grounds enough to only allow female immigrants from these problem countries, in order to balance out the population.


"they’ll likely drive bride-price transactions underground — and possibly to new heights as parents demand a risk premium for paying up."

Eh? Wouldn't parents demand a risk discount for paying up?


Supply and demand. Demand is much higher than supply therefor parents of the girl have a lot of leverage. Price will go up.


Not if it's the seller's market.


Interesting article. I'm a little surprised on how abruptly the article just seems to end, the author suggests possible solutions to the problem, but doesn't argue them just presents them.


it is not a problem. marriage will need stable economical base. most time, the money from both family will go into fund the couple's life, as deposit for an apartment, purchase of a car or some sort. I would recommend that do not go into marriage without a stable finance. The social system in western countries of course are different, people don't have to worry about these issues.


I am planning to hopefully marry my girlfriend in the next couple of years and her parents are already asking for "at least a small amount like 10,000 USD", because "I'm white anyway", meaning I must be rich.

Taking into account all the abuse she had to take from them, and their lazy and useless way of life, they're not getting a penny from me.

Many people though feel powerless to resist and ruin themselves financially by paying it.


> Taking into account all the abuse she had to take from them

Some unsolicited advice, because internet: I really hope you understand what you're getting yourself into. I have no idea how familiar you are with Chinese culture, but be aware that family, especially parents, are very important in China. I'm sure you heard the "in China, you're not marrying a person, but a family" thing before. It really is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, so depending on at which age and for how long she has lived in the West, despite her parents treating her bad, she might still feel a great urge to abide by her parents and pull an emergency bailout.

Even if she decides to cut ties with her family, which might very well happen if you don't pay a dime and make her parents lose face, keep in mind that now you need to be extra sure she is well integrated locally (friends, activities, social life). Again this depends a lot on how westernized she is, if not that much, having Chinese friends is crucial if you're living in an entirely different culture. Just don't let her get all reclusive and spend all time on Chinese social media. This might sound like a joke but I've seen it happen. The culture barrier is real. I've seen Germans struggling to adapt to the American way of living and vice versa, and they're ridiculously close compared to China and any Western country.

Also I hope the way her parents treat her doesn't trigger too much of a protective instinct. It's noble you want to help her but be really sure you know the person and want to stay with her. Breaking up now and sending her back to her parents might make her life miserable, or maybe not and she'll find someone back in China, but marrying her, fucking up her relationship with her parents and then realizing it doesn't work after a year or two will quite likely make her life miserable. (But depending on how ugly it has gotten, you might actually like that at that point).

Again this is general precautionary advice, mostly assuming worst case conditions.


Same shit is happening in India. If you dont have a H1B and never worked in US, good luck finding a girl. I am 27 right now and that too a low caste. I am seriously contemplating giving up hopes of marriage and remaining single. Will be tough as I dont have a family. All my family members were killed when I was young. I have stopped bothering and now just bury myself in work and reading to avoid the darkness.


Don't give up hope. If India is anything like China, independent, educated young people are much more likely to make marriage decisions for love rather than money. The key thing to realise is that, if someone will only marry you for your financial status rather than love they'll probably be a terrible spouse, and similarly if they'd let their parents make their marriage decision for them they're also probably not the kind of person you want to marry. If they care about your caste, then they're a horrible racist and you certainly wouldn't want to marry them.

If you go to a big city and hang out at the kind of places educated, independent young people go to, you might be surprised at how open-minded the people you meet are. Particularly art-related places; people who pursue an artistic career have potentially already demonstrated a preference for following one's heart over financial concerns.


As my girlfriend would say. It comes as a package, the person has her feelings, body, character, social status, and family background, etc...

It takes more than "love" to bond and have a lasting relationship. It's good advice to look for people who are somewhat similar.


Possibly some of the best life advice in three paragraphs I have seen


What city do you live in? I'm from Delhi and the situation is very different here for sure. And in India, the girl's family usually pays dowry (usually much more than $10k + gold jewelry) to the guy's family, so that's something literally opposite to China culture? As another commenter mentioned, the situation in metro is developed enough where you'll find a partner through love rather than status.


I am originally from Bihar but currently in Bengaluru. I know about the dowry but in my case its quite the opposite due to my caste. I am low caste(chamar) with no family. Any meaningful and prospective relationship shuts down as soon as my caste comes to light. Should I try moving to Delhi?Would my caste be an issue with girls and their parents from Delhi?


This caste bullshit should really die. You're a human being, not 'low caste', and so are they. As my grandmother used to say: "They all smell bad in the loo, no matter what airs they put on.".


I am unsure of the details of the caste situation and marriage, in my metro upbringing I haven't seen any instances of caste discrimination at all (I am vaishya). However, from the fact that you're active on HN does tell me that you're cut from a different cloth than your peers and I do feel that you'll have better luck in metros.


I'm sorry you're in that situation. I guess I don't have anything constructive to say, I just hope you find a chosen family.


[flagged]


We ban accounts for commenting like this, so please don't.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


>and their lazy and useless way of life

Is that against some particular to them "lazy and useless way of life" they follow, or because their way of life doesn't match some american ideal (e.g. personal ambition and protestant-work-ethic), and thus it's "lazy and useless" because its different?


$10,000 is typical for bride-price in China and only a bit higher than average annual Chinese income. The Chinese do save more than 30% of their income so that is about three years of savings for average earners in China, which is quite high for them admittedly. If you work in a Western country and have a decent job (otherwise why should their daughter marry you anyway?) you can save $10,000 in less than two years. Many Chinese bachelors can do better than that, either they can command or commit more resources. That is along what they think.


If you work in a Western country (Europe) and have a decent job, there is no way that you save that much unless living with flatmates or parents for years.

Yearly income is around 10k, 20k or 30k before taxes, depending which part of Europe it is. It all goes to taxes, then rent, then food and car.


Living with flatmates or parents for years is exactly what they do in China.


You can live in many places of Europe without a car. Saving 420€/month while earning 30k is definitively possible if your only expenses are rent, utilities, food and public transport.


The thing is, in China, you are not just married with the person you in love with, you also married to the family of that person. (And at the same time, that person is married to your family as well)

I remember when my colleagues was talking about whether or not they're letting their wife to manage their money. One person brought up "I've paid ¥XXXXXX for the 彩礼[0], so I'm not allowing her to limit how I spend my salary".

The idea was, as the man of the house, you provides, so you have some "power" over other family members. And that 10,000 USD you may need to pay, is the way of showing that you can provide.

Of course, all of that above is the "modern" explanation. In the ancient time, where the gender inequality is much severe, the Bride Price is mainly served as compensation to the female's family. Because after been married, the female will technically "leave" their own family and become a part of the male's family. That's why "Getting Married" is called "出嫁" at the female side, where "出" means leave (her own family).

One more thing, except for 彩礼[0], we also have 嫁妆[1] which is something that female's family will provide (technically to their own girl, though).

If you want to dig deeper, checkout one[2] Wiki page (If you can read, the Chinese version is better). If you're living in China, better ask your local Chinese friends, I bet their information is more accurate and detailed than the Wiki page.

Hope you have a happy marriage.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_price#China

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowry#China

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_marriage


How does your fiance, the person you presumably love and care about most in the world, feel about you doing that to her parents? I wonder how it affects her too; is it some kind of cultural statement that your fiance isn't worth anything? Hope not!

It could be a pretty big insult to her parents that would affect her relationship with them (and possibly with the rest of her family as well) for the rest of her parents' lives, and depending on how she feels about it and how the rest of her family feels about it, could affect her for the rest of her life as well.

If she's fine with it, sure, great plan. If it's going to make her miserable, perhaps not so great.


You’re going to enter into a relationship with the people you’re talking about (on a public forum) for the rest of your life.


Realistically, barring any massive progress in life-extension technology it's unlikely the poster will have to deal with his in-laws for the rest of his life (unless they're particularly murderous). Even less likely if he and his wife migrate away from China.


Fine, just for (better) half of their life then.


Nah they’ll ask for way more than 10k USD if they think you’re rich :) it’s common that they’ll ask you to buy a house/apartment first


What happens if you don't pay? you need some written approval or what?


What happens for her is strong condemnation and probably severing of ties with the family.


win-win?


If her family is important for her, she probably break up with him.


[flagged]


What on earth is up with this mentality here on HN? I get that most of the people here are in tech and making probably at minimum 70k right out of college, with the higher end ones making 100k out of college.

But surely you can't be serous? This 10k payment idea doesn't apply just to higher incom folks like you, this applies to a decent portion of the population there most of which is making less than 30k a year. 10k for someone who makes 100k in the USA is very diffirent than to someone making 30k in China.

Surely you are well aware that you are easily in the top percentile of the world regarding income, right?


Even for poorest people in rural areas in China, it’s still possible that they’d pay 10k usd “bride money”. 10k is really considered to be a lot in China for such matters. A wedding could also cost a lot more than that. When they say “a small amount”, they mean it


I can live with 10k 10 Month, in Munich. Money for 10 Month is never chump change.


To factor in, is it something that can be paid and then you forget about ever having economic ties again? Or will paying it simply create an expectation of getting more down the line?


Seems like this is a downvoted opinion, but I concur. Strange really, how much months/years of expenses would $10k get their family? Not much more than a few months I assume?


Depends. In rural China this is still a lot of money.


Not really. If they were really, really frugal, the most I could see that lasting is 2 years.


See another comment in this thread: "$10,000 is typical for bride-price in China and only a bit higher than average annual Chinese income. The Chinese do save more than 30% of their income so that is about three years of savings for average earners in China".

That seems more in line with my experience (and the $10,000 price is also something I've heard often). I could easily see my grandparents in law (who live in rural China) be able to live of $10k for three years, given that nothing exceptional happens.


I see what you're saying. I guess it depends on how people interpret "a lot." To me it would have to be at least 5x the average.


In rural China? I can live pretty comfortably on 10k for two years in an Austrian city with my cheap apartment and by abstaining from luxuries.


> Taking into account all the abuse she had to take from them, and their lazy and useless way of life, they're not getting a penny from me.

Then why are you planning to marry "into the family" if you have such a low opinion of them?

> Many people though feel powerless to resist and ruin themselves financially by paying it.

If $10K is going to ruin you financially, you shouldn't be marrying anyone. Not that I agree with the dowry custom, but $10K isn't that much money.

Just because you are lonely or feel like the girl you have is the only one you could get isn't reason to get married. Despite what you think now, parents/siblings/family matter. Money matters. And the longer you are married, the more important family and money becomes. Don't get married out of naivety or desperation.


You can marry someone and not marry their family. My korean wife and I both know her family is an abusive horror show and have subsequently cut them off.


I know a mainland Chinese person who completely cut off his own parents after they kept treating his wife poorly, a couple of decades ago when the country was much less developed. Culture is no excuse; a just person (for lack of a better word) is not going to tolerate their parents mistreating their partner, regardless of where they're born. People who accept terrible behaviour from family just because they're family only encourage them to continue such bad behaviour; terrible parents won't stop being terrible parents if they don't face any consequences.

The Chinese language even has a rude word for someone who slavishly obeys their parents, "走狗", literally meaning "running dog".


A good start would be a law that ensures a woman’s claim on marital property in the case of a divorce. Current Chinese law makes no such provision, and thus provides a strong disincentive to marry and a very powerful incentive to charge higher bride prices.

We have laws like this in Europe. Marriages keep happening later and TFRs keep plummeting. Why would it work any different in China.

Journalists always push their prefferred policies even when there's no proof they solve the very clearly stated problem. Subsidize kindergartens! Mandatory, paid maternal leaves! All while populations that implemented them keep collapsing.


Another false trope pushed by everyone...

"Women are marrying later and having less kids because of career concerns, lack of maternity leave and child benefits."

The countries with the best maternity leave and child benefits have the oldest marriage and lowest birth rates.

And japan, where most women give up their jobs once married to start families and where the government pays women to have children have one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

So it's not career/jobs, it's not maternity leave, it's not child benefits. Could it be societal? Media? Education?


I think media. In Brazil there was a soap opera where the main actors got ( often pregnant) pregnancy rates increased heavily during that time.


> So it's not career/jobs

Where did this conclusion come from? It does not follow from your comment. If it's the thing about Japan, that's more convincing as an argument that it IS career prospects that is the culprit.

So while it's true that lowering birth rates has a societal cause, the ever increasing expectation of women to build a career is a major contributing factor.


It doesn't matter if Japanese women quit their jobs to raise a family once they're married if they're not getting married[0]

0: https://www.dw.com/en/why-fewer-japanese-are-seeking-marriag...


>So it's not career/jobs, it's not maternity leave, it's not child benefits. Could it be societal? Media? Education?

Or Could it be so simple we can no longer afford to marry and have a Child even if both of us have a job.


It's contraception. The solution is for the government to randomly introduce placebos into the contraceptive supply. Or just accept that, given the choice, people don't want kids that much.


This. This thread is killing me. This might be the only comment so far to even consider women as having agency. When you give women control over their own bodies and equal enough rights to support autonomy — so, treat them like people, basically - it turns out they don’t want to have so many kids, because growing and birthing humans is incredibly taxing and traumatic. The trauma, in particular, is weirdly something that people don’t talk to young women about, and that often remains hidden from view. Reach a certain age (as a woman) and get alone in a room with other women of a certain age and the stories are absolutely harrowing. Of the women I’ve known personally who have given birth, all but one had PTSD from the experience.

I am, frankly, dreading the replies to this comment, as the thread already tilts heavily towards the sort of dehumanizing abstraction of women’s rights that often precedes more explicitly misogynist arguments cloaked in utilitarianism, so I will just say that if you consider coercing women into traumatizing and often debilitating situations to be an acceptable “cost” of a hypothetical economically optimal birth rate, I do not consider you to be capable of engaging in good faith and will not respond.

I would also suggest that concerns about “birth rate” or other abstracted metrics are often a screen for concerns — from men — about access to sex. I mean, in the context of intensifying climate change, a decreasing birth rate is not really our biggest problem as a species. It might actually be an asset.


You're unnecessarily turning this into sexism issue, ironically ignoring how men also have a part in birth rate. All humans, men or women, have agency, but they're most likely going to act in their best interests. That's why we can generalize large scale behavior with some degree of accuracy. Obviously that's the not going to capture the nuances of every individual decision, but that's the best that we can do when discussing the effects of policy.


Giving birth is painful, but plenty of women want to do so more than once, so I doubt that more than a few (if any) have PTSD.

As for what women wants, since we can both agree that they have agency, we can ask them. Or better yet, look in to the surveys done on just that subject[0], and conclude that women do not get as many kids as they want to, or expect to.

[0]: https://ifstudies.org/blog/how-many-kids-do-women-want


There were the famous studies from a few years ago in Israel and Germany that sparked a small cultural spat in the West about regretting motherhood and having a child being a source of immense unhappiness.[1][2] It's of course obvious why they generated so much outrage, centuries of propaganda about motherhood being bliss and the highest calling for women.

To quote from the WaPo article below (some people may not be able to read it):

"it turns out that having a child can have a pretty strong negative impact on a person's happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Demography. In fact, on average, the effect of a new baby on a person's life in the first year is devastatingly bad — worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner."

"Researchers Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskylä followed 2,016 Germans who were childless at the time the study began until at least two years after the birth of their first child. Respondents were asked to rate their happiness from 0 (completely dissatisfied) to 10 (completely satisfied) in response to the question, "How satisfied are you with your life, all things considered?""

"On average, new parenthood led to a 1.4 unit drop in happiness. That's considered very severe. To put things in perspective, previous studies have quantified the impact of other major life events on the same happiness scale in this way: divorce, the equivalent of a 0.6 "happiness unit" drop; unemployment, a one-unit drop; and the death of a partner a one-unit drop."

[1] https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-israeli-study-regretting...

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/0...


So is the solution for women to stop having children and for humanity to die off?

Also, I think the study needs to be much more longitudinal than "2 years on". Arguably the pay off for having children comes much, much later. For some, the pay off doesn't really come until they have grandchildren.

Yes, having children is often a monumental PITA. But humans are social animals, and nothing is really comparable to fill that hole than having a family of your own. The question as posed by the study is silly: yes, you might find less day-to-day happiness if your child is screaming all night long and you need to feed them and change their shitty diapers. But if the question had been 10 years on, and you asked those same mothers "do you regret having children", you would get a very different answer.


> So is the solution for women to stop having children and for humanity to die off?

What a ridiculous false dichotomy. Earth has a huge (and increasing) number of humans on it. We are in far greater danger from unsustainable depletion of natural resources than we are "dying off" from gradually declining birthrates.


If we don't maintain the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, the worlds population will eventually shrink exponentially. If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.


> If we don't maintain the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, the worlds population will eventually shrink exponentially. If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.

Why should that be scary?


Why is that scary? Human civilization might be much more sustainable with a billion people, rather than currently-predicted peak of 10 billion.

I'm much more worried about climate change leading to war and famine than I am about women voluntarily choosing to have fewer children. As far as I can see, population decline is only a problem because our current economic system assumes endless growth.


If women consistently have < 2 children the population won't stabilize at 1 billion.


Ok, get back to me when world population < 750 million. Then we can worry about depopulation.

In the meantime, our species has much more urgently pressing issues.


Our species really doesn't have more pressing issues.

Fucking the environment is very unlikely to destroy humanity, and that is really the only concern of any species.

As conscientious pieces of a greater whole, however, there are definitely more pressing issues.


But the argument is that women want to have more kids but can't because of career, maternity leave, benefits, etc. Also, survey after survey says that women want 2 or 3 kids ( average is about 2.5 ). But the fertility rate is far less than 2. So there is a disconnect between what women want and what women have. The question is why? Why aren't women able to achieve their goals? Of all the answers given, all of them are suspect.

> The trauma, in particular, is weirdly something that people don’t talk to young women about, and that often remains hidden from view.

Everybody talks about it. It's why society discourages girls from getting pregnant.

> Of the women I’ve known personally who have given birth, all but one had PTSD from the experience.

Well your experience is rather the anomaly. Most first time mothers choose to get pregnant again? 80% of first time mothers choose to do it again. Sure the birthing process isn't a walk in the park, but to say it is "trauma or PTSD" is absurd from a statistical and evolutionary point of view.

> I would also suggest that concerns about “birth rate” or other abstracted metrics are often a screen for concerns — from men — about access to sex. I mean, in the context of intensifying climate change, a decreasing birth rate is not really our biggest problem as a species. It might actually be an asset.

It's obvious your bias leans towards low birth rate but this is absurd and makes it hard to take you seriously. To say concerns about "birth rate" is about access to sex is nonsense. You do realize that pregnancy and higher birth rates gets in the way of sex right? It's one of the reasons why men invented condoms and birth control. Greater access to sex.


Dude, no one talks about degree 2 vs degree 3 peritoneal tears or peeing when you jumprope. That is not talked about. I don't think you have any idea of the actual trauma involved in birth: the membrane sweeps, the cervix check, the coercion into surgery under the threat of your kid dying, being essentially chained to a bed unable to leave because of an IV and the monitor when you know just being able to walk down the hall would make you feel better. The epidural gone in wrong, paralyzing one side of your body but leaving the other side in great pain, and then being unable to push because of the asymmetry. The nurse telling you you're not allowed to push until the ob-gyn comes, but the ob-gyn is out to lunch. Afterward, the mastitis, the bleeding nipples, the sharp stabbing pain in your pelvis when you try to do side plank. Yeah.

Yeah, that's not why we tell girls not to get pregnant.


That's one of the craziest things I've ever heard proposed, but I assume it's a joke. Otherwise would said government pay for raising this child? Or are we going to treat this like pro-life supporters do in the US and only care about babies up until the point where they are born. I simply don't understand why we would want overpopulation and especially unwanted children who will likely grow up in a foster home being beaten and raped, unwanted by anyone. It's hard enough being born to a family that loves one and has the means to support one. These kind of ideas remind me of the Romanian ban on contraception during the communist years. That did not work out well at all and neither would this (introducing placebos). I'm quite sure society can adjust and accept the fact that fewer people want kids or even marriage. It's already started in many countries and so far seems to be just fine.


Maybe people don't want to bring children into a world that will be worse off in many ways than the one they grew up in?

That hypothesis would correspond with the observation that it's the most educated, most long-term-focused people in (currently) stable societies that are delaying or avoiding children.


"Maybe people don't want to bring children into a world that will be worse off in many ways than the one they grew up in?"

Objective measurements show that the world better off than it was and still improving. [0]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCm9Ng0bbEQ


That's assuming those trends will continue unabated. There's plenty of reason to believe they will not[0]

[0] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/william...


Yes, but do the people referenced in your quote know or care about objective measurements or do they just feel that things are worse? The sentiment exists regardless of the truth.


For the world in general, yes.

For the US middle-class? Medical expenses and college tuition are both exploding, so they are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet. Yes cars are safer, cellphones so much better and so on, but it just doesn't add up to enough.

Plus all it takes is one wrong move by Putin or Kimmy and all that progress goes up in a mushroom cloud.


China is slightly different in that the sex ratio is skewed, there's more men than women. So giving women incentives for divorce probably wouldn't affect marriage rates that much (not that I think it's a good idea)


> All while populations that implemented them keep collapsing.

You say it like it would be a bad thing? It's a bit weird because I have had this impression that overpopulation, not underpopulation is some kind of a problem here on our home planet...


Yeah but have your heard, growth urbanism modern agriculture electric cars facebook users blah blah, that now its considered elitist to believe in "overpopulation"

Or as Snow Crash put it, "the industry runs on biomass"




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