HOW BIRTHPLACE AND EDUCATION INFLUENCE MARRIAGE CHOICES IN CHINA
Many people choose their spouse based on shared values and interests. But in China, another important, relatively unknown factor plays a role:
hukou, and it may be contributing to growing socioeconomic disparity in the country’s largest city, according to a UBC study.
Hukou is a household registration system in China that limits access to social benefits largely based on the birthplace of the holder. The UBC-led sociology study examined the effect of hukou and education on heterosexual marriage patterns in China’s largest city, Shanghai. Residents with Shanghai hukou, for example, have better access to jobs, schools, housing and other opportunities in that city compared to migrants, who are effectively treated as second-class citizens. For migrants, obtaining Shanghai hukou is challenging and rarely successful. The researchers found that, in Shanghai, local hukou shapes individual marital choices and is considered a valuable attribute in the marriage market.
“When we think about marriage, we often think about love and romance,” said Yue Qian, assistant professor of sociology and the study’s lead author. “But in reality, marriage choices are usually filtered by other factors. In this study, we found that hukou has a significant effect.”
The researchers used data from a 2013 population survey in Shanghai that asked respondents who were born in the 1980s about their own and their spouses’ hukou and education when they first got married. The sample included 1,247 couples. In cases of hukou intermarriage – where one spouse has Shanghai hukou and the other is a migrant – couples were more likely to involve a Shanghai husband and a migrant wife (14 per cent) than a Shanghai wife and a migrant husband (six per cent), the researchers found.
Education also proved to be an important factor in marital decisions, with the probability of a migrant marrying a spouse with Shanghai hukou increasing with the migrant’s education level. “It’s a bit of a tradeoff,” said Qian. “If someone with Shanghai hukou marries a migrant, then their migrant spouse needs to at least have the same or a higher education level. Otherwise, it seems they have nothing to gain economically from marriage.”
The findings are important because they reveal how China’s hukou system is widening resource inequality between migrants and locals and between the educated and less educated, said Qian. This is especially true in Shanghai where nearly half of the population is made up of migrants.
Qian is now studying Asian immigrants to the US. Since hukou is similar to citizenship status, she is interested in seeing if similar marriage patterns emerge. The Shanghai study was co-authored by Brown University sociology professor Zhenchao Qian.
SMOKY WITH A HINT OF SKUNK
UBC scientists have scanned the genome of cannabis plants to find the genes responsible for giving various strains their lemony, skunky or earthy flavours, an important step for the budding legal cannabis industry.
“The goal is to develop well-defined and highly-reproducible cannabis varieties. This is similar to the wine industry, which depends on defined varieties such as chardonnay or merlot for high value products,” said Jörg Bohlmann, a professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories and Faculty of Forestry at UBC. “Our genomics work can inform breeders of commercial varieties, and which genes to pay attention to for specific flavour qualities.”
The research is part of an ongoing collaboration between Bohlmann, graduate student Judith Booth, and Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor in the botany department who founded the cannabis testing and biotechnology company Anandia Labs.
They found about 30 terpene synthase genes that contribute to diverse flavours in cannabis. This number is comparable to similar genes that play a role in grapevine flavour for the wine industry. The genes the researchers discovered play a role in producing natural products like limonene, myrcene, and pinene in the cannabis plants. These fragrant molecules are generally known in the industry as terpenes.
“The limonene compound produces a lemon-like flavor, and myrcene produces the dank, earthy flavour characteristic of purple kush,” says Booth.
They also found a gene that produces the signature terpene of cannabis, beta-caryophyllene, which interacts with cannabinoid receptors in human cells along with other active ingredients in cannabis.
Bohlmann says the economic potential of a regulated cannabis industry is huge, but a current challenge is that growers are working with a crop that is not well standardized and highly variable for its key natural product profiles.
“There is a need for high-quality and consistent products made from well-defined varieties.” he said.
The researchers say it will also be important to examine to what extent terpene compounds might interact with the cannabinoid compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that confer the medicinal properties of cannabis.
Inactive teens have weaker bones than those who are physically active, according to a new study.
Researchers at UBC and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute measured the physical activity and bone strength of 309 teenagers over a specific four-year period that is crucial for lifelong, healthy skeletal development.
“We found that teens who are less active had weaker bones, and bone strength is critical for preventing fractures,” said Leigh Gabel, lead author and PhD candidate in orthopedics at UBC.
Gabel and her co-investigators used high resolution 3D X-ray images to compare differences between youth who met the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and those who got less than 30 minutes a day.
The four-year window – between the ages of 10 to 14 for girls and 12 to 16 for boys – is a vital time when as much as 36 per cent of the human skeleton is formed and bone is particularly responsive to physical activity.
“Kids who are sitting around are not loading their bones in ways that promote bone strength,” said Gabel, which is why
weight-bearing activities such as running and jumping and sports like soccer, ultimate Frisbee and basketball are important.
Bone strength is a combination of bone size, density and microarchitecture. While boys had larger and stronger bones throughout the study, both boys and girls responded in the same way to physical activity.
“We need school- and community-based approaches that make it easier for children and families to be more active,” said co-author Heather McKay, a professor in orthopedics and family practice at UBC and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility.
The good news is that activity does not have to be structured or organized to be effective: short bursts such as dancing at home, playing tag at the park, chasing your dog or hopping and skipping count, too.
“The bottom line is that children and youth need to step away from their screens and move to build the foundation for lifelong bone health,” said McKay.
COWS AND CURFEWS
Dairy cows housed indoors want to break curfew and roam free, suggests new UBC research.
The study measured how much work dairy cows will do to access pasture, by pushing on a weighted gate. It found the cows worked hard, especially at night. As a comparison, the researchers also measured how much weight the cows would push to access their regular feed when kept indoors, and discovered that the cows worked just as hard to go outside as they did to access fresh feed when they were hungry.
“Our findings show cows are highly motivated to be outside,” said Marina von Keyserlingk, the study’s lead author and an animal welfare professor in UBC’s faculty of land and food systems.
von Keyserlingk said many dairy cows in Canada, the US and other parts of the world are housed exclusively indoors. This may meet the cow’s basic needs for food, water, hygiene and shelter, but does not allow the cow to engage in natural behaviours.
“Improving the cow’s quality of life is obviously important for the animal, but it’s also important for the people involved, including the farmers that care for them and the consumers who buy dairy products,” said co-author and UBC animal welfare professor Dan Weary.
The researchers said their findings support previous studies that found public opinion of a good life for cattle involves access to outdoor grazing.
Dan Weary and Marina von Keyserlingk. Photo: courtesy LFS Learning Centre