An East–West dichotomy? Shifting marriage age patterns in Taiwan and Sweden over two centuries
preprintposted on 15.10.2020, 08:12 by Yen-hsin Alice Cheng, Martin Kolk
Age at marriage varies greatly over time and between places. This study examines changes in age differences between spouses, as well as age at marriage, over 200 years in Taiwan and Sweden. Changes across vastly different socioeconomic and demographic contexts are explored in these two different kinship and marriage systems. Five different data sources are used to create micro-level data on spousal age differences for Swedish marriages formed between 1830 and 2006 and for Taiwanese ones that occurred between 1870 and 2015. The findings reveal two clearly distinct marriage systems that converge in some ways over time but remain divergent in other aspects. While age at marriage varied greatly over the two centuries, this study puts particular emphasis on how age at marriage for both men and women interacts with age differences between spouses and how this has changed over time. In contrast to shrinking age differences in Taiwan over one and a half centuries, average age differences in Sweden remained relatively constant, with the dispersion of age differences following a U-shaped pattern and reaching a minimum in around 1970.