marriage per se or the characteristics of those who marry early that increases the risk of dissolution.
Despite the fact that marriage or union formation is nearly universal, many aspects of this transition vary from place to place. This variation makes the meaning of marriage—both in and of itself and in relation to the transition to adulthood more broadly—quite different in different contexts.
In this chapter, we examine various aspects of the transition to marriage with a focus on changes in the last several decades. First, we describe the prevalence of marriage among young people under age 30, focusing especially on the timing of marriage. Second, we consider differentials in age at marriage. Third, we explore some of the global changes described in Chapter 2 and their possible implications for changes in the timing of marriage. Fourth, we look at the terms and conditions of marriage, including the age difference between spouses, polygyny, the decision making process surrounding marriage, consanguinity, the nexus between marital behavior and household formation and structure, and financial transfers between families. Finally, we provide data on changes in the legal age at marriage across countries and review the limited literature on interventions that have been designed to encourage young women and their families to delay marriage. Note that, although constrained by the available data, we give attention to young men as well as women. Given that the literature focuses on the timing and conditions of women’s marriage, this concern with the marriage of men is a distinctive feature of our treatment.
The data on marriage prevalence and timing among young people come from two sources: the United Nations (UN) Population Division database and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). The advantage of the UN data base is that the data are available for a large number of developing countries; the advantage of the DHS data is that there is information on age at first marriage rather than information simply on current marital status by age. A more extensive discussion of the data, including a discussion of the regional weights we employ and the degree of coverage of each data source, appears in Appendix A at the end of the volume.
Before turning to the findings on marriage trends, a cautionary note is in order. We are assuming here that the reporting of age and marital status in the censuses and surveys on which our analysis is based is accurate. In certain populations, however, this assumption may be questionable. In Africa, where formation of a marital union has been described as a process that takes place in stages, marriage is not a well-defined event and therefore