Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This study examines married women’s employment status and the factors associated with their being full-time housewives between 1989 and 2004 in urban China. I argue that the transition from a command economy to a market-oriented economy since the early 1980s has had negative impacts on married women’s labor force participation. Using six waves of the Chinese Health and Nutrition Survey (1989, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2000, and 2004), I find that the percentages of full-time housewives in urban China tripled in just 15 years, and the largest amount of growth occurred in the most recent period. Regression analyses confirm that married women are more likely to be full-time housewives in 2004 than in other years. The results also show that whether married women become housewives or stay in the labor market depends on three micro-level factors –human capital, husbands’ income, and the presence of pre-school children. Married women with lower educational attainment, who were not previously employed, and those with pre-school children are more likely to be housewives. In addition, it appears that some married women are full-time housewives because they can afford this kind of lifestyle, such as those with higher income husbands. These results suggest a polarization process in urban China, that some married women are forced to leave the labor market because of their lack of human capital or/and their child care responsibilities, while others in more affluent households may choose the lifestyle of being housewives.



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Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Yoshinori Kamo



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Sociology Commons