Shifting Marriage Age Patterns in Taiwan and Sweden from the 19th to 21st Centuries

Yen-hsin Alice Cheng , Academia Sinica
Martin Kolk, Stockholm University

This paper examines mean age at marriage and spousal age gaps in two countries with very different gender and demographic regimes: Taiwan and Sweden. We extend this focus the focus of previous research to examine how the age gaps between spouses change by ages of the wife and the husband over a long time horizon. The data used for this study come from historical Taiwanese register data (1905-1946), repeated fertility surveys (1979-2016) and marriage registration data (1998-2015) in Taiwan. For Sweden a combination of contemporary register data (1932-2017) with parish data from Skellefteå in Northern Sweden (1800-1955) were used. The results show that mean age at marriage increasing in both societies, but Sweden has been a much later marrying population than Taiwan, and that spousal age gaps across the life course are gendered and vary between the two countries. In both countries, age hypergamy (men older) increased with male age at marriage, but decreased for women in Sweden. An intriguing U-shaped pattern was found for women in Taiwan. Overall, the age gaps are much larger in Taiwan, and there are declines in age hypergamy in both societies in recent decades. Spousal age gaps by wife’s age at marriage reveal more variations across the life course and by social context than those by husband’s age at marriage. While age patterns vary more in historical periods, a convergence is observed for contemporary age patterns in both societies as both become post-industrial economies with higher women’s status than prior time.

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 Presented in Session 23. Historical Demography