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Comprehensive Child Marriage Research Library

A Characterization of World Union Patterns at the National and Regional Level


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Ortega, José Antonio


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Population Research and Policy Review

Peer Reviewed


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Students Against Child Marriage's Object Summary:

This article compiles marriage data in three categories (sex, age, and status) from around the world to find union patterns in regions and around the world. Based off of World Marriage Data from 2008, they discovered that developing countries and Eastern Europe were, as of 2008, displaying characteristics of marriage in Western Europe in 1970. Around the world, women marry earlier in life than men (sometimes much earlier) and less developed countries tend to have a much larger age gap than more developed countries. These statistics are exacerbated when it comes to adolescent marriage, which they found almost entirely impacts females only. In a more general sense, the analysis found that most people around the world choose to marry, with permanent celibacy rates fairly low, although higher in island nations. They call on additional research to be done on marriage around the world and for countries to do a more thorough job with their census to provide more data to analyze, especially in the developing world concerning whether or not marriages were consensual.

Article Abstract (If Available):

Issue Title: Special issue on First Union Patterns Around the World; Guest Editor: Andrew J. Cherlin Patterns of union formation at the National and Regional level are documented for the first time based on a unique data set. Information on levels and trends in almost every country or territory of the world are monitored by building on the United Nations' World Marriage Data 2008. Union formation has been postponed by an average of 2 years since the 1970s, a pattern observed in all regions. In this way, the developing world in the 2000s resembles more the developed countries in the 1970s than the developing world. There are, however, increasing differences between countries since postponement has been faster in the developed world. Union formation remains almost universal in many regions of the world, with permanent celibacy still low at the global level, but increasing in some parts of the world. Female adolescent marriage and a large age gap between spouses remain high in the least developed countries. Systematic patterns of unbalanced marriage markets characterized by excess male or female celibacy patterns are observed in many countries. Consensual unions are reported in most of the countries of the world with different levels of prevalence, and an effort should be kept at keeping census information relevant by adapting to new patterns of union formation.

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