arranged, the extent to which young people become independent of parents in choosing their life partners has implications for their obligations to the family, the financial and social support they can expect from parents, their postmarital residence, sexual activity and fertility behavior.”
The data that exist on the relative involvement of parents and young people in the selection of marriage partners suggest that in a number of societies in which arranged marriage was a common feature of the marriage process, there has been a movement in recent years toward self-choice. This decline in kin control or increase in a young woman’s involvement in mate selection has been documented with survey data in China (Feng and Quanhe, 1996; Whyte, 1990; Xiaohe and Whyte, 1990), Togo (Gage and Meekers, 1995), Indonesia (Malhotra, 1991), and India (Jejeebhoy and Halli, 2005), and asserted to be occurring throughout sub-Saharan Africa (Lesthaeghe, Kaufman, and Meekers, 1989; National Research Council, 1993:116-151) and parts of Asia (Choe, Westley, and Retherford, 2002). In Togo, the proportion of first marriages that were arranged declined from 37 percent in 1970 to 24 percent in the period 1980-1988, a trend that Gage and Meekers (1995) associate with increased education and urbanization. A survey in 1987 of nearly 600 women in Chengdu, China, the capital of Sichuan Province, revealed that arranged marriages, in which the couple often did not meet until the wedding day, declined from 69 percent of marriages between 1933 and 1948 to 1 percent in 1958-1965 to 0 percent in the 1980s. While the adoption of a new marriage law in 1950 outlawed arranged marriage, a “family revolution” was apparently beginning in urban areas in the several decades before the Communist takeover in 1949, due to greater exposure to the West (Whyte, 1990).
Bledsoe and Cohen (National Research Council, 1993:Chapter 3) argue that increasing wage labor in sub-Saharan Africa provides young men with a degree of independence from their family, giving them greater control over whom they marry. Banerjee (1999:8), in his discussion of contemporary marriage patterns, makes the same argument about India: “New opportunities for market employment altered the balance of power in the family and kinship system” and this “economic independence allowed adult children to acquire more power over spouse selection.” An ethnographic account of changing social norms with regard to marriage among the Orma of northeastern Kenya observed a shift in bargaining power in favor of young men and women; moreover, young women are now gaining support in both the civil and the Muslim courts against “forced” marriages (Ensminger and Knight, 1997).
Comparison of spouse selection patterns across cohorts in Indonesia, as noted above, reveals that both men and women—but particularly women, whose parents were traditionally more involved in spouse selection—are increasingly likely to choose their spouse. While family background and