Privatization of urban housing in China has altered the basic parameters of household dissolution from those that prevailed before 1980. For several reasons, divorce was rare during the Mao years, but one critical barrier was employer control over urban housing. Thirty years later, employers no longer supply new flats and the majority of urban couples are homeowners. Simultaneous with the privatization of urban real estate has been a divorce revolution. In 1978 there was one divorce for every twenty marriages and courts handled half of the cases. By 2008 there was one divorce for every five marriages and courts finalized less than 30 percent of cases. Through a comparison of the changes in black letter law and arguments made by ordinary citizens in 24 focus groups, the article illustrates how ordinary citizens are negotiating with black letter law to institutionalize post-socialist property rights.
Author Publication Note: This article has been translated legally in Chinese in a book published in 2013 by the Social Sciences Academic Press, vol 4, in series entitled 家庭与性别评论 (Essays on Family and Gender) edited by 马春华 (Ma Chunhua).