ABSTRACT: Japan’s population is the oldest in the world and will continue to shrink for the foreseeable future. My first goal in this talk is to provide an overview of Japan’s distinctive demographic landscape, focusing on rapid population aging and its policy implications while also emphasizing the role that declining rates of marriage have played in accelerating population aging via their impact on fertility. After describing the centrality of marriage behavior to our understanding of demographic and societal trends in Japan, my second goal is to present results of new research documenting an unexpected reversal in educational differences in women’s marriage. For decades, highly-educated women have married later and more often remained unmarried than their less-educated counterparts – a pattern thought to reflect the high opportunity costs of marriage in Japan’s gender inegalitarian society. However, my analyses of recent data show that women with a university degree are now more likely than high school graduates to marry, a shift that hints at the possibility of changing norms and expectations regarding women’s employment and economic contributions to the family. Concurrent trends toward continued decline in marriage among low-educated men and women are consistent with emphases on the deteriorating economic circumstances of this group.
PROFILE: Jim Raymo is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also the current Director of Graduate Training of the Center for Demography of Health and Aging and the former Director of the Center for Demography and Ecology. Raymo’s research focuses primarily on evaluating patterns and potential consequences of major demographic changes in Japan. He has published widely on key features of recent family change, including delayed marriage, extended co-residence with parents, and increases in premarital cohabitation, shotgun marriages, and divorce. In other lines of research, he has examined health outcomes at older ages in Japan and their relationship with family, work, and local area characteristics and has examined multiple dimensions of well-being among the growing population of single mothers and their children in Japan. He is currently involved in a new project that explores explanations for low fertility in Japan and another that examines inequalities in children’s development in Japan. His research has been published in top U.S. journals such as American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Demography, and Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences as well as in Japanese journals.