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How Has the Average Age at Marriage Changed Over Time?

More and more women (especially those in industrial countries) are choosing to get married at a much later age. Some say this trend is related to the rise of the feminist movement. Gender equality laws have allowed women to go to college and pursue any career they wish; many of them are not only taking advantage of these freedoms, but prefer to postpone the decision to start a family until they have “made their own mark.” Social perceptions have also changed; people no longer look down on “spinsters” or single women because they “haven’t landed a man.” The definition of success or even of happiness has broadened, so that women are equally comfortable as wives or as individuals, with their own interests, their own money, and their own independence.

While social perceptions and norms have certainly changed, though, what do the statistics say about the effect on the age of marriage? American statistics say that 1 in 2 adult women are single. But in the last 100 years, has the age gap really grown that much? In the 1900s men got married at about the age of 26 years old. Women, on the other hand, got married at about the age of 22 years old. Even in the 19th century—the time of Jane Austen novels and The Little House on the Prairie series—women had to be at least 18 to be allowed to get married.

Today, women tend to get married at about 25 years old—and so there is only a 3 year delay in the average age. The age gets considerably younger in other countries. For example, women in Mexico still tend to get married at the age of 18.

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