Uxorilocal Marriage as a Strategy for Heirship in a Patrilineal Society: Evidence from Household Registers in Early 20th-Century Taiwan

Abstract: In pre-industrial Taiwan, an uxorilocal marriage, in which a man moved in with his bride’s family, was a familial strategy used to continue family lineage and to enhance family farm labor. We examine the prevalence and circumstances in which a family would call in a man for one of their unmarried daughters. Using data from the Taiwan Historical Household Registers Database (THHRD) from 1906-1945, we identify the individual-level factors (including parental status, sibling status, household heads’ occupations, and the capacity of the family labor force) and community-level factors (including ethnic demographics and the prevalence of uxorilocal marriages by region), which are predictive of uxorilocal marriages. Our analyses first show that women without siblings and women with only female siblings were more likely to adopt the uxorilocal form of marriage. In addition, the effects of number of siblings’ were moderated by the presence or absence of parents. For women without any male siblings with at least one parent, especially a father, residing in the household, the likelihood having an uxorilocal marriage was higher than for those without any parents. Second, an uxorilocal marriage was more common in families without men in the labor force to fulfill the manpower needed for farming. Third, uxorilocal marriage was more likely to occur in families living in the poorest socioeconomic conditions, especially those families in which household heads did not own land and had to sell their labor for agricultural production. Our findings imply that the adoption of uxorilocal marriage varied not only from place to place but also from time to time; it was conditioned by the modes and the means of labor production.