Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Migration and Ethnic Relations


Danièle Bélanger


In China, the distorted sex ratio at birth and its subsequent masculinization in the marriage market has raised significant concern. It is speculated that the large population of ‘surplus men’ will increase discordance within households and shift elder care burdens to local communities and the state. This thesis is based on a qualitative research conducted in Shannxi and Jiangsu Provinces of China in 2012. Based on 30 in-depth interviews with single men and their family members and narratives from many other locals, it examines single men’s spouse-seeking strategies; elder care arrangements among households with single men; and the relationship between labour migration and marriage. Employing the structuration approach and the life course perspective, I underscore how bachelorhood is situated in the broader structural parameters of the kinship, gender, and demographic contexts. I reveal how single men exercise agency to seek a spouse in a severely constrained marriage market and then provide evidence on their contribution to inter-and intra-generational transfers. Lastly, I argue that high rates of bachelorhood cannot be reduced to an outcome of the demographic female deficit; they are interrelated with other significant structural parameters.