Spousal Age Gaps in Northern Belgium: Early 19th to Early 20th Century

Hideko Matsuo , Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Koen Matthijs, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

This paper examines the evolution of spousal age differences in first and high order marriages in Northern Belgium from early 19th to early 20th century (1800-1913). We examine socio-economic, demographic and geographic profiles of (re)married couples, comparing them across marriage order and gender. With presence of industrialization, urbanization, and to some extent, secularization, Western European Malthusian marriage pattern (EMP) was challenged by observing declining ages at first marriage and decreasing proportions never married. Partner selection criteria changed from instrumental to a more emotional view of marriage. Such development is reflected in the rise of age homogamy patterns for first marriages in Northern Belgium (Matsuo & Matthijs 2019). This paper extends the analysis of spousal age gaps to the remarried. Analysis is based on civil marriage registers in West Flanders (total 414,277 units), Flemish Brabant and Brussels capital region (combined total 600,250 units). Descriptive statistics and hierarchical regression models are applied to examine determinants of spousal age gaps. Unlike age homogamy patterns among the first marriages in the second half of 19th century, we expect higher proportions of age heterogamy among the remarried. Age homogamy for first marriage was followed more in cities but least in religious municipalities and among bridegroom farmers. We expect more age heterogamy and older bridegroom relationship among the remarried, because of varying selection and marriage opportunities. Our paper aims to highlight the interplay of socio-economic and culture determinants on spousal age gaps by marriage order and gender in Northern Belgium.

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 Presented in Session 25. Social Gradients in Mortality and Family Formation