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Gendering a New Marker of Adulthood: Home Ownership in Southwest China

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Sociological Forum

Published online on

Abstract

["Sociological Forum, EarlyView. ", "\nLife course researchers have made important advances in understanding the Western transition to adulthood but have paid less attention to global variations and gender differences. This paper draws on Risman’s (2004, 2018) theory of gender as a social structure to examine the gendered meanings of establishing an independent household, a relatively new marker of adulthood in China that has evolved to focus on home ownership. Drawing on 100 interviews with men and women in two cities in southwest China, we find that men’s ability to buy a house was typically seen as an indicator of competence, potential, and independence. By contrast, for women a house was often described as something men or parents provided to spare them from having to attain this marker of adulthood on their own. This depiction of women as vulnerable and fragile was at odds with interviewees’ expectations for women’s actual financial contributions toward a house. This rhetoric made home ownership a “male marker” of adulthood that undermined women’s relationship to property, a key component of wealth in China.\n"]