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China’s Leftover Women: Late Marriage among Professional Women and its Consequences

The term "leftover women"("sheng nü") has been recently coined in China to describe the increasing number of women, especially highly educated professional women in their late twenties and over who have not married.


This book explores this phenomenon, reporting on extensive research among "leftover women," research which reveals that the majority of women are keen to get married, contrary to the notion that traditional marriage has lost its appeal
among the new generations of economically independent women.


The book explains the reasons behind these women’s failures to get married, discusses the consequences for the future make-up of China’s population at the dawn of its
modification of the One Child Policy, and compares the situation in China with that in other countries.


China’s Leftover Women provides practical solutions
for educated women’s courtship dilemmas, and long term solutions for China’s partnering issues, gender relations, and marriage formation. The book also relates the "leftover women" problem to theories of family, mate selection,
feminism, and individualization.

China's leftover women.jpg

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Critical Acclaim


A nuanced and well-grounded account of the moral dilemma that single and successful Chinese women face in their uphill endeavor to live a life of their own yet at the same time meeting the expectations of others, this book raises serious questions about the complexities and social constraints in the Chinese path to individualization.


Yunxiang Yan, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

The book is written in a highly

accessible style. The numerous extracts of interviews provide intimate insights into the personal lives of these accomplished women. This book will be enjoyed by those with an interest in contemporary feminism and marriage trends and in Chinese society more generally, and will be read with benefit by students in courses on contemporary China, gender studies, and anthropology with an East Asian focus.

Anne E. McLaren, Professor in Chinese Studies, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne

Overall, I found this to be a really

interesting book that gave insights into

the issues that Chinese women find in their relationships with both their parents and their potential partners. Sandy To explains the historical background which has led to the concept of ‘leftover women.’ It discusses the challenges that women face in order to pursue their careers but at the same time comply with the expectations of society

and their families.

Wilma Garvin, Senior Lecturer, 

School of Business and Law, University of East London

China’s Leftover Women provides a detailed

and textured reading of the challenges faced by educated and accomplished Chinese women in navigating the urban Chinese marriage market. This book is necessary reading for anyone wanting to understand the current conditions of young women in China and their varied and creative relationship strategies.

James Farrer, Professor of Sociology and Global Studies, Sophia University, Japan

To's book, as a pleasant and

thought-provoking read for those interested in women and gender in contemporary China, exhibits great potential to open up new avenues for future research and to propel social change.


Xuan Li, Assistant Professor of Psychology,

New York University Shanghai, China


Sandy To's study of China's "leftover 

women"is a timely and eye-opening analysis

of those females who are "highly educated, accomplished, and unmarried." This finely hued ethnography demonstrates how debates on modern versus traditional practices of intimacy and family are now affecting the life choices of millions of young women in the People's Republic of China.'


Harriet Zurndorfer, Leiden University, Netherlands, Editor Nan Nü: Men, Women and Gender in China

Watch me talk about "leftover women"

Winner of the WeShareScience Social Media Prize!
Winner of the Symbolic Interaction Research Prize!
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