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Housing prices and the probability of marriage among the young: evidence from land reform in China

Mingzhi Hu (Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)
Lina Wu (Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China)
Guocheng Xiang (Hunan University of Technology and Business, Changsha, China)
Shihu Zhong (Shanghai National Accounting Institute, Shanghai, China)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 4 May 2021

Issue publication date: 24 February 2023




Using data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey, this work examines the relationship between housing price and the probability of marriage among the young.


By exploiting land reform as an exogenous change in housing price and employing a differences-in-differences framework, this study investigates the effects of housing price on the marriage probability of young people.


This work confirms that land reform decreased young people's likelihood of marriage. This finding is robust to a series of model specifications. The effects of land reform increased over time because of rising housing unaffordability from progressively inflating housing prices. Moreover, land reform had larger effects on renters and young adults aged below 30 than homeowners and young adults aged above 30.

Social implications

Overall, this study highlights the negative consequences of an overheated housing market on marriage in developing countries.


Housing prices have increased dramatically in urban China after 2002 upon the implementation of the assignment system of the use right of all kinds of profit-oriented lands by means of public bidding, auction and quotation. High housing prices indicate serious housing unaffordability, especially for young people who typically have low income and wealth. Homeownership that comes with various benefits can theoretically increase the likelihood of marriage, particularly in China where a house is often regarded as a prerequisite for marriage.



All of the authors of the paper have participated in certain substantive aspects of this study, and they are acknowledged or listed as contributors. The work does not involve any hazards, such as the use of animal or human subjects' issue. There is no financial or other substantive conflict of interest that might be construed to influence the results or interpretation of our manuscript. This study was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (No. 2020A1515010359; No. 2019A1515011921), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 72074097; No. 71902072; No. 71774144), and the Major Research Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Ministry of Education (No. 18JZD033).


Hu, M., Wu, L., Xiang, G. and Zhong, S. (2023), "Housing prices and the probability of marriage among the young: evidence from land reform in China", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 420-438.



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