Patrilocal, Matrilocal, or Neolocal? Intergenerational Proximity of Married Couples in China

Rob J. Gruijters*, John Ermisch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-566
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 National Council on Family Relations


  • Asian/Pacific Islander Families
  • families in middle and later life
  • gender
  • intergenerational relations
  • living arrangements


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