The average age at marriage has risen in most industrial countries. Even countries with less development, or who have come lately to industrialization show a rise in the average age at marriage for women. These statistics may reflect a greater feminist stance in most countries, with more women working and completing college. As well they reflect a trend away from marriage in the US. Fully one-half of the US population is now unmarried.
If one looks at US statistics over the past 100 years for example, one sees that men had an average age at marriage of 25.9 years in 1900. Women in 1900 had an average age at marriage of 22 years. For some this shatters an illusion that women 100 years ago were sold into marriage as young children.
Even Jane Austen, writing in the early 19th century had heroines married at the earliest age of 17 or 18. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, which are semi-autobiographical, her father would not allow her to marry until she was 18. Thus it can be said that the average woman was past 21 when entering her first marriage, 100 years ago.
In other cultures, age at marriage may be slightly lower. For example, in Mexico the mean age of marriage currently is 23.3 years for men and 18.4 years for women. This has increased as well, reflecting Mexico’s increasing industrialization.
Currently the average age at marriage in the US is 26.8 years for men, and 25.1 years for women. It is interesting that though this represents an increased age for men, it is not significantly higher than the rate 100 years ago. Actually age rates at marriage for men declined from 1910 through 1960. Lowest average age for marriage in men was in 1960, when the mean age for marriage was 22.8 years.
There are negligible declines in average age at marriage from 1910-1960 in women. However the difference between the 1910 figures and figures in 1960 are less than two years. In men, the difference is a more significant four year spread. However by the 1970s both figures increased. The largest jump in a decade was women’s average age at marriage in 1980 and 1990. In ten years the age rate jumped from 22 years to 23.9.
In fact in the last 20 years, both men and women show a considerable increase in age at marriage. Men are now on average two years older when they marry than the mean age of marriage for men in 1980. Women are three years older on average now, than the mean marriage age in the 1980.