A study on the mortality of middle-aged unmarried men in light of China’s rising sex ratio

GUO Zhen1 LIANG Haili1 LI Shuzhuo2

(1.School of Sociology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology)
(2.Institute for Population and Development Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong University)
【Knowledge Link】life expectancy; life table

【Abstract】Using censuses data, this paper focuses on the mortality level and pattern of China’s unmarried male adults in the context of population sex imbalance. Our research findings show that there is a significant difference in mortality between married and unmarried male adults. Compared with married males, the unmarried ones have higher death risks and larger disparities in their life expectancy. The life expectancy at the age of 30 is 7.6-year lower for the unmarried men as compared with the married. The rural unmarried male adults constitute “the most vulnerable group” due to the socio-economic disparities between rural and urban areas and unmarried status. Among the unmarried male adults, mortality differs significantly by education level, and the educational difference is severer than that exemplified by marital status or residence type. The study concludes that while it is less feasible to reverse the sex imbalance in the short term, developing education may be more effective to mitigate the excess mortality of China’s unmarried male adults.

【Keywords】 middle-aged unmarried men; mortality research; average life expectancy; inequality in life expectancy;


【Funds】 Youth Project of the National Social Science Fund of China (14CRK025)

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    [1]. ① Temporary life expectancy refers to the average years of survival of the population in the investigated age range [x, x + n], namely, , where Tx is the number of years of survival above x years old and lx is the number of surviving people at x years old. [^Back]

    [2]. ② It mainly includes Tabulation on the 1990 Population Census of the People’s Republic of China, Tabulation on the 2000 Population Census of the People’s Republic of China and Tabulation on the 2010 Population Census of the People’s Republic of China. [^Back]

    [3]. ① There is no uniform standard for the age definition of middle-aged unmarried men in academic circles. Most scholars define it as 28 or 30 years old; some scholars set it at 25 or 26 years old and other scholars also suggested that it should be limited to 32 years old. Based on a comprehensive review of the existing studies, this paper set lower age limit of middle-aged unmarried men at 30 years old. It should be noted that the specific value of the lower age limit for middle-aged unmarried men does not affect the basic conclusion of this paper. [^Back]

    [4]. ① For the sake of data quality and data comparability, this paper selected some developed countries with high data quality according to Hu et al. (1990) and adopted the data of the latest year available since the 1990s. See Figure 2 for the specific countries and data years. In addition, limited by data, the mortality curve of unmarried men here is drawn from 25 years old instead of 30 years old as defined in this paper. The age interval of mortality is ten years old instead of one or five years old, which does not affect the basic conclusion of this paper. [^Back]

    [5]. ① Illiterate here was classified as illiteracy or lack of literacy in the 1990 census. In the 2000 census, there were two categories: not been to school and literacy class. In the 2010 census, it was classified as not been to school (the same below). [^Back]

    [6]. ① According to the calculation in this paper, the e30 of all men in China was 44.21 years old in 2000 and increased to 46.45 years old in 2010. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-1043/C

Vol , No. 06, Pages 69-79+127

December 2018


Article Outline



  • 1 Research background
  • 2 Data and methods
  • 3 Overall characteristics of the mortality of middle-aged unmarried men
  • 4 Internal differences in mortality of middle-aged unmarried males
  • 5 Conclusion and suggestion
  • Footnote