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Abstract

Objective

The study describes current patterns of intergenerational proximity in China and analyzes the structural conditions that are associated with couples' proximity to the husband's and the wife's parents.

Background

Patrilocality is a core aspect of the traditional Chinese kinship system and is deeply rooted in Confucian beliefs. In recent decades, however, this custom has been challenged by internal migration as well changes in family values and preferences.

Method

The authors model the effect of each spouse's household registration (hukou) origin, education level, and sibling structure on intergenerational proximity using a nationally representative sample of 4,256 couples derived from the 2010 China Family Panel Studies.

Results

Almost 75% of married Chinese couples live with or in close proximity to the husband's parents. There is, however, a strong social gradient in intergenerational proximity, and patrilocality is particularly pronounced among rural‐origin and less‐educated couples. Matrilocal residence remains unusual, although it is more likely when the wife has no brothers.

Conclusion

The custom of patrilocal residence demonstrates a remarkable resilience, even as other patriarchal traditions have crumbled in the face of China's Great Transformation.

Implications

The authors provide explanations for the persistence of patrilocality and discuss implications for intergenerational support, gender inequality, and son preference.