China,4 which ranks very low in the level of young marriage and relatively high in the level of marriage at older ages.

Not only is marriage during the teenage years uncommon among men, but also marriage in the early 20s is much less frequent among men than among women and, in some regions, has declined substantially in recent years. For example, in Eastern and Southern Africa, Eastern Asia, the former Soviet Asia, and the Middle East, there has been a sizeable reduction in the percentage of men married at ages 20-24 in the last decade or so.

By ages 25-29, considerable numbers of men in developing countries have wed. However, in certain regions, marriage is postponed until the 30s for a large fraction of men. In South America and the few countries of Western/Middle Africa for which there are data, this pattern is observed in the earlier period and seems to have stabilized. In the Middle East, where nearly half of men were not married in this age group, and in the former Soviet Asia, there is recent evidence of increasing delay.

In summary, Tables 7-1 and 7-2 reveal declines in the proportion ever married for both sexes in most regions; the exceptions are South America for both men and women and, for men only, Western/Middle Africa and South-central/South-eastern Asia. For six of the eight regional groupings, the patterns for men more or less parallel those for women. The exceptions are Western/Middle Africa, where there are substantial declines in the proportions married for women at ages 15-19 and 20-24 but virtually no change for men at ages 20-24 and 25-29, and South-central/South-eastern Asia, where there is no change for men but declines for women at ages 15-19 and 20-24. While five of the eight regions have had declines in the proportions married among young people of both sexes, in China and the Middle East the change has been most consistent across the three age groups for women and the two age groups for men.

Tables 7-3 and 7-4, which are also based on the UN database, are similar to Tables 7-1 and 7-2 in that they show levels of union formation by age, gender, and time, but they also break countries down by income group as designated by the World Bank, rather than region (World Bank, 2002b).5 For both men and women there is very little difference in the percentage in a union in the lower middle- and upper middle-income categories. There is


For Eastern Asia, data are available only for China, which contains 98 percent of the region’s population.


China is excluded from the lower-middle category because it is so numerically dominant that the weighted average for the category simply reflects its percentages. Given that China is the only country in the Eastern Asia regional grouping, the percentages for the country can be found in Tables 7-1 and 7-2.

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