Countries with higher levels of marriage have higher levels of gender inequality. This isn’t a major discovery, but I don’t remember seeing this illustrated before, so I decided to do it. Plus I’m trying to improve my Stata graphing.
I used data from this U.N. report on marriage rates from 2008, restricted to those countries that had data from 2000 or later. To show marriage rates I used the percentage of women ages 30-34 that are currently married. This is thus a combination of marriage prevalence and marriage timing, which is something like the amount of marriage in the country. I got gender inequality from the U.N. Development Programme’s Human Development Report for 2015. The gender inequality index combines the maternal mortality ratio, the adolescent birth rate, the representation of women in the national parliament, the gender gap in secondary education, and the gender gap in labor market participation.
Here is the result. I labeled countries with 49 million population or more in red; a few interesting outliers are also labeled. The line is quadratic, unweighted for population (click to enlarge).
You can see the USA sliding right down that curve toward gender nirvana (not that I’m making a simplistic causal argument).
Note that India and China together are about 36% of the world’s population. They both have nearly universal marriage by age 30-34, but women in China get married about four years later on average. That’s an important part of why China has lower gender inequality (it goes along with more educational access, higher employment levels, politics, history, etc.). China is a major outlier among universal-marriage countries, while India is right on the curve.
Any cross-national comparison has to handle this issue. China is 139-times bigger than Sweden. One way to address it is to weight the points by their relative population sizes. If you do that it actually doesn’t change the result much, except for China, which in this cases changes everything because in addition to being huge they broke the relationship between marriage and gender inequality. Here is the comparison. Now the dots are scaled for population, and the gray line is fit to all the countries except China, while the red line includes China (click to enlarge).
My conclusion is that the gray line is the basic story — more marriage, more gender inequality — with China as an important exception, but that’s up for interpretation.
I put the data and the code for making the charts in this directory. Feel free to copy and crib, etc.