This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Science Trumps Superstition in the Year of the Fiery Horse

Thanks to Shoshana Grossbard for the link to a recently published paper exploring what really happens to girls born in the Year of "Hinoeuma" (the Year of the Fiery Horse, aka the Fire Horse). You will recall that in the Chinese zodiac calendar used in Japan, the Year of the Fiery Horse occurs every 60 years and it is believed that girls (but not boys) born in that year will have troublesome characters and so will be hard to marry off. Indeed the birth rate dropped dramatically in the last such year--1966--but of course there were some girls who were born that year nonetheless. Hiroyuki Yamada of Osaka University has gone back to see what happened to those women, compared to women in surrounding cohorts, and compared to men. 
We find that there is no evidence of disadvantages to fire horse women in human capital investment, performance in the marriage market, or intra- household allocation of resources after marriage.
One of the important changes that has occurred since these women were born in 1966 is that arranged marriages have been almost entirely overtaken by love marriages. Older parents arranging a marriage may worry about the year in which a girl is born, but her same or similar age lover seems not to care. Furthermore, since there were fewer women born in that year than in the surrounding years, they seemed to have done a bit better in the marriage market than you would otherwise have expected. Another blow to superstition.

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