December 5, 2004

1973: The demise of the shotgun wedding

Here's a new Census Bureau graph on the increasing median age of first marriages. Graphs like this are misleading because by starting in 1950, they don't show that the immediate post-War decades were anomalous. Before WWII, the average age of first marriages had been higher, but after the War, the abundance of union jobs paying a living wage to very young men allowed the age of first marriage to hit an all-time low. In general, Europe has been a fairly late marriage civilization (compared to the Chinese or Indians) since pre-Christian times.

The age of first marriage for women crept upward after 1960, perhaps due to increasing levels of higher education for women. But the marriage age for men had stayed right at 23 until about 1973, after which it shot upwards for about two decades before stabilizing at around 27. Indeed, if I had to guess the very day the average age of marriage for men started to rise, I'd put my money on Jan. 22, 1973, the day the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade.

There's a lot of other evidence that what we think of as The Sexual Revolution of the Sixties didn't actually happen on a mass scale until about 1973. And the likeliest single reason it happened then is Roe v. Wade.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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