Check that: Most marrying people are remarrying above age 31

The other day I wrote that the majority of people marrying over age 35 have been married before. That is true, but because of the way I handled the age categories it’s not specific enough. In fact, the majority of men marrying over age 30, and the majority of women marrying over age 28, have been married before.

Here are the details, in two charts, both using marital events data from the 2012 American Community Survey from IPUMS.org. The first shows the breakdown between first-married and previously-married people marrying at each age. It is not until age 40 for men, and age 38 for women, that previously-married people become the majority marrying at each age. These proportions reach two thirds in the mid-40s and surpass 80% by age 52:

timesmarriedmarrying-area

But the percent remarrying at or above a given age is higher. Here is that pattern, showing that we enter majority-remarried territory at 31 for men and 29 for women:

timesmarriedmarrying-lines

The rates of remarriage at a given age maybe matter more practically, but this is a neat way to look at it.

Note there is no demographic reason that these patterns must hold. If remarriage were taboo or more restricted this would not be the case. Being ever married cannot be revoked (unless people lie to the Census Bureau), so the percent ever-married should never decline for a cohort (unless the ever-married have much higher mortality or emigrate more than the never-married, which is very unlikely). But ever-married proportions for the population don’t have to rise with age in a given cross-section, even if you don’t just look at people marrying right now. If marriage were becoming more common on a cohort basis, for example (which it is not), you could see higher ever-married rates among young people than among old people.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Check that: Most marrying people are remarrying above age 31

  1. krippendorf

    Not trying to be snarky here, but why do we care? Is there some particular outcome that’s associated with age-at-second marriage? A trend in age-at-second marriage that is consistent or inconsistent with some theory of change in the social meaning of marriage? Or is this just a factoid that you thought was interesting and as-of-yet unknown to family demographers? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

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    • The issue for me is the ubiquity of nontraditional family experience. Lots of factoid ways to represent that which become fascinating, but that’s the main point. It seems that everyone knows age at marriage is increasing, but to most people I think the image is still of first marriage as the dominant experience. But you’re right – if I had an important point to make I’d tell you (over and over, probably!).

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  2. Ben

    In the second graph: when looking at 16 yr olds getting married last year, for 30% of them, this was not their first marriage? Do I understand this graph correctly?

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  3. Pingback: Syllabus supplements for spring family sociology | Family Inequality

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