Marriage is different all around the world, including the age at which people do it. And now, thanks to Priceonomics’ Alex Mayyasi, we know at what age people get married all over the planet. Mayyasi took the UN’s marriage data for the world’s 20 most populous countries and compiled it in an easy format.
The numbers were arrived at by averaging the ages of men and women, but, says Mayyasi, this hides the fact that men marry later than women, 3.7 years later on average. This gap also varies from place to place, getting shorter the richer the country. France has the smallest gap—1.6 years, and Egypt has the largest: five years. The data set does leave out a number of the poorest countries.
Anecdotally, this fits. I live in Germany (number one in this list), where people shack up as early as anyone else, but nobody seems to get married until they have had kids. This is partly because married couples get great kid-related benefits like paternity leave and partly because seemingly everyone stays in higher education well into their thirties.
The rising age of marriage is good for women. According to a 2013 study sponsored by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, women who wait until age 30 to get married earn a lot more:
Later marriage tends to mean richer women, especially among the college educated, even after controlling for other factors. By the time they reach their mid-thirties, there is an $18,152 difference in annual personal income between college-educated women who marry before age twenty and those who wait until thirty or later.
Mayyasi dug deeper into the figures for the U.S. and found some startling numbers—numbers that will be great to use in your next argument with someone espousing "family values."
Less than half of adults are married, and almost half of births happen out of wedlock. Worldwide, though most people still marry, with 80% of both men and women hitched by 49 years old.
So the trend seems to be that, as a country gets richer, people marry later, and when women marry later, whether educated or not, they earn a lot more money. And, given that the country isn’t going off the rails despite the fact that half of kids are born without married parents, this seems like a good thing.