Marriage Formation in Comparative Perspective: Marriage Rates, Marriage Age and the Role of Context

Claudia Geist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Despite much research on marriage formation, not enough is known about cross-national trends in recent decades and the impact of context on marriage formation in comparative perspective. Using data from four decades and 23 countries, I document trends toward lower marriage rates and delayed first marriage. I examine variation in marriage formation along the lines of economic, gender and family and public policy contexts. Male unemployment depresses marriage rates, but higher GDP is linked to later marriage. Gender inequality seems to make marriage less attractive, yet I find no evidence that age at first marriage is shaped by gender and family context. There are significant differences in marriage formation across policy clusters, independent of other context measures. This study shows that male economic well-being remains an important foundation of marriage. Policies targeted toward family formation will not be effective if economic foundations of marriage are not addressed.

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Presented in Session 90: Global Changes in Marriage and Family