Marriage Migration in Contemporary China

Dr Delia Davin (University of Leeds)

WUN Contemporary China Center Virtual Seminar

23.Apr.2009 09.00 - 10.00
LT16, Roger Stevens Building - Leeds


This talk is about marriage migration which has been an important form of migration for women in contemporary China, accounting for between a quarter and a third of all female migration.

Both uneven development and greatly improved communications have contributed to the development of marriage migration as a significant social phenomenon in post-reform China. Women may use marriage to escape poverty-stricken home areas and to move up through the spatial hierarchy to more prosperous areas. In other cases their families wish to take advantage of the higher bride price prevalent in wealthier communities. Agents make money by effecting introductions and moving women physically, sometimes over thousands of miles.

While doubtless these marriages sometimes offer advantages to all the individuals involved, they may leave the bride isolated and vulnerable in her new community if things go wrong. Like ‘mail-order' marriage migration these arrangements offer potential benefits to poor women but the risks are high.

At a societal level, marriage migration has negative demographic implications for poorer areas which inevitably suffer a net loss of women as the marriage market goes national. This is particularly serious because China's surplus of men over women in the affected age-groups is generally high.


Professor Delia Davin is Emeritus Professor of Chinese at the University of Leeds. She received her PhD from the University of Leeds. Professor Davin is the author of Internal Migration in Contemporary China (Macmillan 1999), Woman-work: Women and the Party in Revolutionary China (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1976), Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China (New York: Pantheon and Toronto: Irwin 1987) and Mao Zedong (Stroud: Sutton Publishing 1997). She is Collaborating Researcher for the UNRISD Project on Globalization, Export-Oriented Employment for Women and Social Policy. Her areas of interest are Social and Economic Development in China, Gender Issues, and Rural-Urban Migration in China.

General information on WUN seminars at Leeds can be found at

All welcome!