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Cultural lag, anomie, and single women in Japan

Dissertation
Author: Akiko Yoshida
Abstract:
This study uses Japan as a case study and seeks to contribute to a better understanding and theorizing of the phenomenon of marriage decline in the industrial world. Guided by a theoretical framework that synthesizes the life course perspective, William Ogburn's hypothesis of cultural lag, and Emile Durkheim's concepts of anomie and egoism, this study hypothesizes cohort differences in causes of increased singlehood. Employing mixed methods, four hypotheses that predict cohort differences in marriage age norms and conceptions of gender roles are tested by original, in-depth interview research with forty never-married and married women in Japan, and by statistical analysis of the 2005 Japanese General Social Survey ( n = 1,167). The research findings support three of the four hypotheses and uncover other important factors such as cohort differences in views of parents. and peer marriages. Reasons for non-marriage differ by cohort, and important causal factors include changes in employment opportunities; lag, adaptation, and erosion of gender culture; and presence of other variables that impede marriage. This study contributes by empowering women, informing better social policies with the potential to enhance the lives of individuals in Japan, and constructing a more applicable theory of non-marriage.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

Chapter One: Introduction……………………………………………………………….1

Chapter Two: Literature Review………………………………………………………...4

Chapter Three: Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses………………………………37

Chapter Four: Methods………………………………………………………………...50

Chapter Five: Results Part I……………………………………………………………75

Chapter Six: Results Part II…………………………………………………………….85

Chapter Seven: Results Part III……………………………………………………….113

Chapter Eight: Results Part IV………………………………………………………..144

Chapter Nine: Conclusions and Discussion…………………………………………..176

Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………..208

Appendix……………………………………………………………………………...222

x

LIST OF TABLES

Page

Table 2-1

Percentages of Women Never-Married by Year: Japan, 1950-2005……………6

Table 2-2

Intention of Marriage among Single Men and Women Ages 18-34: Japan, 1982-2005……………………………………………………………………….9

Table 2-3

Percentage of Women in Higher Education: Japan, 1960-2005……………….20

Table 4-1

List of All Variables and Frequencies………………………………………….72

Table 5-1

Frequency and Percentage Crosstabulation of Views toward Wife‟s Traditional Role by Gender by Cohort………………………………………....77

Table 5-2

Summary of Logistic Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Rejection of Traditional Wife‟s Role…………………………………………..79

Table 9-1

Definitions of Theoretical Concepts………………………………………….183

Table 9-2

Explanations of Findings in Terms of Four Theoretical Concepts…………...188

Table A-1

Interview Participants…………………………………………………………228

xi

LIST OF FIGURES

Page

Figure 2-1

Average Age at First Marriage in Japan: 1960-2005……………………………6

Figure 2-2

Changes in Total Fertility Rates in Japan: 1950-2005…………………………11

Figure 9-1

Cultural and Social Contexts and Potential Linkage to Increased Singlehood……………………………………………………………...……..191

Figure 9-2

Theoretical Linkage among Variables That Lead to Foregone or Postponed Marriage…………………………………………………………..193

xii

ABSTRACT This study uses Japan as a case study and seeks to contribute to a better understanding and theorizing of the phenomenon of marriage decline in the industrial world. Guided by a theoretical framework that synthesizes the life course perspective, William Ogburn‟s hypothesis of cultural lag, and Emile Durkheim‟s concepts of anomie and egoism, this study hypothesizes cohort differences in causes of increased singlehood. Employing mixed methods, four hypotheses that predict cohort differences in marriage age norms and conceptions of gender roles are tested by original, in-depth interview research with forty never-married and married women in Japan, and by statistical analysis of the 2005 Japanese General Social Survey (n = 1,167). The research findings support three of the four hypotheses and uncover other important factors such as cohort differences in views of parents‟ and peer marriages. Reasons for non-marriage differ by cohort, and important causal factors include changes in employment opportunities; lag, adaptation, and erosion of gender culture; and presence of other variables that impede marriage. This study contributes by empowering women, informing better social policies with the potential to enhance the lives of individuals in Japan, and constructing a more applicable theory of non-marriage

1

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

The present study uses Japan as a case study and seeks to contribute to a better understanding and theorizing of the phenomenon of marriage decline in the industrialized world. Marriage rates declined significantly in Japan since the 1980s when its economy was booming. The rates continued to decrease after Japan entered a severe recession in the mid-1990s, and today unprecedented numbers of Japanese women are unmarried in all age groups, most of them living with parents (Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2005, 2008a). As discussed in the following chapters, existing theories of marriage, which often assume ubiquitous patterns in all industrial societies, do not adequately explain the Japanese pattern. Past studies that examined Japan‟s marriage decline made important contributions by demonstrating the inapplicability of existing theories and suggesting other influential factors (such as relevance of the prevailing gender ideology of Japan), but do not succeed in building an adequate theory of non-marriage. Most of these studies are quantitative analyses of survey and demographic data. In a quest to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon and improve sociological theory, this study employs two research methods: 1) in-depth, open-ended interview research with never-married and married women in Japan, and 2) statistical analysis of the 2005 Japanese General Social Survey (JGSS), a secondary data resource using a nationally representative sample. By combining two methods, this study minimizes risks related to reliability and validity, and seeks to understand why

2

singlehood increased among recent cohorts of women in Japan – as well as what this means to them. This research takes both deductive and inductive approaches. A theoretical framework synthesized from the life course perspective, William Ogburn‟s hypothesis of cultural lag ([1922, 1950] 1966), and Emile Durkheim‟s concepts of anomie and egoism ([1951] 1979) guide both the qualitative and quantitative research. Applying these theories, this study expects to find that economic changes have a profound impact on the marital behavior of young Japanese women. Japan‟s economy boomed between the mid-1980s and early 1990s, entering a severe recession that has persisted since the mid-1990s. Marital behavior, therefore, may vary depending on cohort membership – whether women spent their young adulthood during the time of the boom or the recession. Reasons for non-marriage, views and feelings towards their own circumstances, and expectations about marriage may differ between unmarried women of the boom and recession cohorts. A set of hypotheses regarding cohort differences is tested in both the quantitative and qualitative portions of this research. Other factors that might be related to declined marriage rates are also explored in the interview research, which allows interviewees to voice their views, perceptions, feelings, and reasoning. Japan presents an excellent case for study because current sociological theories fail to explain its pattern adequately. Increased singlehood largely accounts for Japan‟s plummeting fertility rates (Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2003), and similar trends are observed in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea, and Taiwan (e.g., Kiernan 2004; Tsuya and Bumpass 2004). Using

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powerful and versatile theories in conjunction with two research methods, this project attempts to contribute to the construction of a theory of non-marriage applicable to a wide range of societies. This research also aims to empower women in Japan. Gender scholars of Japan (e.g., Ogasawara 1998) have noted that traditional gender culture persists in Japan and that women achieved limited gains in economic power over the last few decades. Demographic changes such as increased singlehood are often theorized as reflective of improvements in women‟s social position, but this study underscores the importance of gender inequality in explaining demographic phenomena. Additionally, never-married Japanese women are likely to face problems such as financial and emotional insecurity, as suggested by the recent rise in the suicide rate among this group (Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare 2004). Still, they are often teased and stigmatized as irresponsible and problematic in the popular media (e.g., Sakai 2006) and their issues are neglected by government policies (Roberts 2002; Zaiki 2000). This study attempts to contribute to the empowerment of this marginalized group through two channels: by a research process that allows women to raise issues they wish to discuss and define their situations using their own words, and by increasing social recognition of women‟s issues.

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CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW

In this chapter, I first explain the phenomenon of increased singlehood in Japan along with related issues. Next, I present sociological theories of non-marriage and assess their applicability to the case of Japan, reviewing empirical findings. As discussed below, existing sociological theories are built based on observations of several Western societies and all fall short in explaining the marriage decline of Japan. Lastly, I review other empirical studies that highlight the relevance of Japanese cultural contexts to marriage decline.

TRENDS IN MARRIAGE AND RELATED ISSUES

Japan‟s marriage rates declined rapidly during the economic boom, from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, and continued to decline after Japan entered a severe economic recession in the mid-1990s. Prior to the 1980s, in the postwar era, a majority of women in Japan married in their 20s. Today, not only has marriage in one‟s 20s become rarer, but large percentages of women in all age groups remain unmarried. Table 2-1 shows the proportions of never-married women by year in Japan between 1950 and 2005. In 1970, only 18.1% of women between 25 and 29 and 7.2% between 30 and 34 were never married. These percentages have increased significantly since the 1980s, with the largest increase observed among the age group 25-29 between 1980 and 1990 (a 16.2% increase from 24.0% to 40.2%). Those staying single in their late-20s were once a minority, but are now mainstream (59.9% in 2005). For older age

5

groups, the proportions of never-married females have gone up as well. For the age groups 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49, the rates increased from 7.2% to 32.6%, 5.8% to 18.6%, 5.3% to 12.2%, and 4.0% to 7.9%, respectively, between 1970 and 2005 (Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2008a; Japan National Institute of Population and Social Security Research 2005; Zaiki 2000). Looking at Figure 2-1, we see that part of the reason for increased singlehood is delayed marriage. The average age at first marriage for women rose from 24.2 years old in 1970 to 25.2 in 1980, 25.9 in 1990, and 27.8 in 2005. However, the significant increase in the proportion of never-married among people over 30 cannot be explained solely by postponement of marriage. Many women who did not marry in their late 20s remained single in their 30s. For instance, the age cohort of 25-29 in 1990 was 35-39 in 2000. The never-married proportion of this female age cohort was 40.2% in 1990 and 13.8% in 2000. This means that more than one third of single women who were never married in 1990 were still never married 10 years later, when they were in their late 30s. For more recent cohorts, the rate of remaining unmarried in one‟s 30s seems even higher. For cohorts aged 25-29 and 30-34 in 2000, the corresponding rates were 54.0% and 26.6% in 2000, which went down only to 32.6% and 18.6% in 2005 (see Table 2-1). This means that approximately 60-70% of single women of these age cohorts remained unmarried five years later, in their 30s. Assuming that the observed trends continue, in coming years Japan is expected to have, compared to the past, even larger percentages of women in their 40s and 50s remaining single.

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Table 2-1. Percentages of Women Never-Married by Year: Japan, 1950-2005 Age/year

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2005

20 - 24

55.3

68.3

71.6

77.7

85.0

87.9

89.4

25 - 29

15.2

21.6

18.1

24.0

40.2

54.0

59.9

30 - 34

5.7

9.4

7.2

9.1

13.9

26.6

32.6

35 - 39

3.0

5.5

5.8

5.5

7.5

13.8

18.6

40 - 44

2.0

3.2

5.3

4.4

5.8

8.6

12.2

45 - 49

1.5

2.1

4.0

4.4

4.6

6.3

7.9

Sources : For figures in 1950 and 1960, Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs, Statistics Bureau, cited in Zaiki (2000); for figures in 1970 and 1980, Japan National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (2005); for figures in 1990, 2000, and 2005, Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Co mmunications (2008 a ).

Figure 2-1. Average Age at First Marriage in Japan: 1960-2005

Source: Japan Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (2008) 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Men Women

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The decline of marriage rates is not a phenomenon peculiar to Japan, but common to all industrial nations. Many researchers from the West point out that marriage decline is accompanied by increased cohabitation and unwed childbearing, and therefore, that non-marriage does not necessarily imply decreased interest in forming intimate relationships (Cherlin 2004; Kiernan 2000, 2004; Raley 2000; Smock 2004; Teachman, Tedrow, and Crowder 2000). However, in the case of Japan, cohabitation and unwed childbearing remain rare. A great majority of single women (and men) live with their parents or siblings or live alone (Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2005). According to Ato (1994), only 1% of single men and women cohabited in the early 1990s, and Retherford, Ogawa, and Matsukura (2001) estimated that only 4% of women aged 25 to 29 and 5% of those 30 to 34 have ever cohabited in Japan. Based on a survey conducted in Japan more recently, Raymo, Iwasawa, and Bumpass (2009) show that rates of individuals who ever cohabited are higher – average 15% – than earlier estimates for birth cohorts from 1954-84. Most of these cohabiting unions, however, resulted in marriage. Therefore, cohabitation in Japan is a “prelude to marriage rather than as an alternative to marriage or singlehood” (Raymo, Iwasawa, and Bumpass 2009: 800). The unwed birth rate has been around 1 to 2% of all births for the last 40 years (Ato 1994; Raymo 1998; Rindfuss et al. 2004; Tsuya and Mason 1995; Zaiki 2000). In other words, a majority of single Japanese women (and men) are, unlike their Western counterparts, not forming intimate relationships that involve co-residence with partners or children.

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Does this mean that an increasing proportion of women (and men) has little interest in marriage and intimate relationships? According to the National Fertility Surveys (Shussho Doko Kihon Chosa) (Table 2-2) conducted regularly on nationally representative samples of single men and women, and other studies (Ato 1989, 1994; Ato and Kojima 1983; Ato et al. 1994; Kaneko 1994; Nakano 1994), individuals‟ intention of marriage has hardly changed during the period of the marriage decline. A great majority of men and women intended to marry one day. Slight increases (and fluctuations) in the percentage of those who had no intention to marry are observed, but these are not large enough to account for the large increases in rates of singlehood in Japan.

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Table 2-2. Intention of Marriage among Single Men and Women Ages 18-34: Japan, 1982-2005 Men

1982

1987

1992

1997

2002

2005

Intend to marry one day

95.9%

91.8%

90.0%

85.9%

87.0%

87.0%

No intention to marry

2.3%

4.5%

4.9%

6.3%

5.4%

7.1%

No answer

1.8%

3.7%

5.1%

7.8%

7.7%

5.9%

Total %

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Women

1982

1987

1992

1997

2002

2005

Intend to marry one day

94.2%

92.9%

90.2%

89.1%

88.3%

90.0%

No intention to marry

4.1%

4.6%

5.2%

4.9%

5.0%

5.6%

No answer

1.7%

2.5%

4.6%

6.0%

6.7%

4.3%

Total %

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Source: National Fertility Surveys, Japan National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (2008). Notes: Single individuals include never-married, divorced, and widowed individuals.

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The increase of singlehood has had serious consequences for Japanese society. Japan‟s fertility rate (Figure 2-1) began a declining trend in 1976, and hit the lowest ever-recorded total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.26 in 2005, though it rose to 1.37 in 2008 (Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2009). According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (2003), increased singlehood accounts for almost 90% of the fertility decline between 1975 and 1990 and 60% of the decline between 1990 and 2000. The TFRs in recent years are far below replacement level (i.e., TFR 2.1), and combined with increased life expectancy (e.g., 79.29 for males and 86.08 for females in 2008), Japan has been one of the most rapidly graying societies in the world (Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2009). In the late 1980s, the Japanese government formally framed plummeting fertility as a social problem – a threat to productivity and pension disbursement in the future – and since then has implemented new policies and programs with hopes to increase fertility rates. These policies and programs included provision of childcare subsidies and parental leave, as well as campaigning for paternal involvement in childrearing (Boling 2008; Gelb 2003; Roberts 2002; Zaiki 2000). These programs, however, primarily focused on giving incentives to increase fertility within marriage and largely neglected the issue of increased singlehood, despite its direct impact on dwindling fertility rates (Zaiki 2000).

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Figure 2-2. Changes in Total Fertility Rates in Japan: 1950-2005

Source: Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Statistics Bureau (2009) 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 TFR

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Increased singlehood has, instead, been treated as a symptom of problematic traits exhibited by individuals, particularly women. Women who remain single past the “appropriate age” of marriage have been stigmatized, for instance, by negative labeling widely used in Japanese society. In the 1980s, such women were called “Christmas Cake,” meaning that they would not be able to sell themselves (i.e., marry) and so become leftovers (urenokori) after age 25, like a cake made to be sold Christmas day (December 25) that is not bought (Brinton 1993; Tokuhiro 2010). More recently, the term Parasite Singles came to be used to refer to single women and men. The term was coined by sociologist Masahiro Yamada (1999), who argued that individuals were not marrying because they preferred living “parasitically” with their parents so they could enjoy carefree lifestyles and consumption. Through the media‟s use of this term, single women were depicted as immature, irresponsible, dependent, selfish, materialistic, and refusing to take on family responsibilities. Another recent term, “Makeinu (defeated dogs),” labels single women over 30 as “losers.” The term originated from a book titled “Makeinu no tooboe (distant howling of a defeated dog)” written by Junko Sakai (2006), an unmarried woman who was, at that time, in her late 30s. The author‟s intention was to express the viewpoints of single women, and her use of the term “defeated dogs” was sarcastic. Yet the term began a life of its own after the media picked it up as a new, negative label for unmarried women. Many single women in Japan are, however, likely to be facing problems such as economic insecurity and psychological distress (e.g., loneliness, depression, etc.). Japan is ranked lowest among developed nations in the United Nation‟s Gender

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Empowerment Measure (Kerbo 2008) and, according to Shirahase (2005), in 2002 Japanese women‟s average earnings came to only about 65.5% of men‟s. The statistics on suicide reported by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (2004) showed an increase in suicide rates among never-married women (and men) in recent years. Yet current government policy discussions not only neglect these women‟s issues (as discussed above) but are sometimes punitive, treating the women themselves as the very cause of Japan‟s population problem. In 2003, then Prime Minister Mori opined that single, childless women are unworthy of social security benefits because they do not contribute to society by bearing children (AtWiki 2009). On January 27, 2007, then Japanese Health Minister Yanagisawa made world news by referring to women as “birth-giving machines” (umu kikai) (CNN.com 2007; The Japan Times 2007). He made a remark at a local political meeting regarding the “low fertility rate problem” (shoshika mondai), saying “(the government) can only ask for (women) to do their best (i.e., to have more babies) since the number of birth-giving machines is fixed.” The Japanese government‟s treatment of women as mere reproductive machines has entrenched historic roots (Faison 2007; Garon 1997; Miyake 1991; Nolte 1991; Ohki 1987; Shinotsuka 1994; Tomida 2004; Uno 1991, 2005) which, apparently, remains strong to this day.

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SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES OF NON-MARRIAGE

AND EMPIRICAL FINDINGS IN JAPAN

As stated earlier, the decline of marriage rates is a common phenomenon in industrial societies, and there are several sociological theories that attempt to explain this change in marital behavior. These theories of non-marriage (in industrial societies) can be roughly classified into four perspectives: 1) economic, 2) cultural, 3) demographic, and 4) cross-national variation. I review each perspective below, and present empirical findings in Japan to assess the applicability of each perspective to the case of Japan. As discussed below, all of these theories fall short in explaining Japan‟s marriage decline.

Economic perspectives: changing economic positions of individuals as cause There are three main camps within this perspective. Two focus on women‟s economic position as a factor that determines interest in, and timing of, marriage for women. The other calls attention to men‟s economic conditions.

Women‟s economic independence hypothesis – the specialization model One of the most influential theories of the retreat from marriage comes from neoclassical economic theory. Gary Becker ([1981, 1991] 1993) theorizes that specialization by gender in marriage – wives specialized in domestic work and husbands in paid work – maximizes the benefits of marriage for individuals. When this specialization structure breaks down (i.e., when women become productive at paid

15

work and gain economic independence), the benefits of marriage are reduced for women, marriage loses its appeal, and fewer women marry or stay married. Becker‟s theory is commonly referred to as the “independence hypothesis,” and is an application of rational choice or the social exchange perspective to an arena of family-related behaviors. In this perspective, humans are viewed as rational actors who choose courses of action based on the calculation of perceived rewards and costs. Rewards in social exchange are not always clearly measurable, and therefore, the assessment of gains (and losses) is highly subjective (Blau 1964). In Becker‟s theory, economically independent women are expected to choose singlehood (or divorce), because they are more likely to figure marriage as more costly (or less rewarding). In societies with an increasing number of such independent women, the number of marriages is expected to decrease correspondingly. Applying this perspective, Ohashi (1993) argues that Japanese women came to avoid marriage starting in the 1980s when they (allegedly) advanced their economic position. To support this argument, she presents census data that show increases in women‟s higher education attainment and labor force participation. She also cites closing gaps in starting salaries by gender and opinion polls in which fewer young women agree with the statement, “Marriage is the source of happiness for women.” Ohashi did not test her hypothesis but made her arguments based on the timing of all these changes that coincided. She contends that Japanese marriage decline must have been due to women‟s declined interest in marriage, itself triggered by gains in economic independence.

Full document contains 243 pages
Abstract: This study uses Japan as a case study and seeks to contribute to a better understanding and theorizing of the phenomenon of marriage decline in the industrial world. Guided by a theoretical framework that synthesizes the life course perspective, William Ogburn's hypothesis of cultural lag, and Emile Durkheim's concepts of anomie and egoism, this study hypothesizes cohort differences in causes of increased singlehood. Employing mixed methods, four hypotheses that predict cohort differences in marriage age norms and conceptions of gender roles are tested by original, in-depth interview research with forty never-married and married women in Japan, and by statistical analysis of the 2005 Japanese General Social Survey ( n = 1,167). The research findings support three of the four hypotheses and uncover other important factors such as cohort differences in views of parents. and peer marriages. Reasons for non-marriage differ by cohort, and important causal factors include changes in employment opportunities; lag, adaptation, and erosion of gender culture; and presence of other variables that impede marriage. This study contributes by empowering women, informing better social policies with the potential to enhance the lives of individuals in Japan, and constructing a more applicable theory of non-marriage.