@reiver

Most Men Marry Younger Women, Most Women Marry Older Men: US 2013 Edition

It can sometimes be easy to be deceived by graphs and infer an untrue conclusion if one is not careful and does not look and think about what one is seeing.

For examples, consider the following excerpt from data from US Census Bureau from 2013.

Age Difference N %
Husband 20+ years older than wife 607 1.0
Husband 15-19 years older than wife 967 1.6
Husband 10-14 years older than wife 2,938 4.8
Husband 6-9 years older than wife 7,085 11.6
Husband 4-5 years older than wife 8,172 13.3
Husband 2-3 years older than wife 12,529 20.4
Husband and wife within 1 year 20,327 33.2
Wife 2-3 years older than husband 3,984 6.5
Wife 4-5 years older than husband 1,998 3.3
Wife 6-9 years older than husband 1,667 2.7
Wife 10-14 years older than husband 634 1.0
Wife 15-19 years older than husband 176 0.3
Wife 20+ years older than husband 211 0.3
Figure 1. Excerpt from http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/files/cps2013/tabFG3-all.xls

We can easily turn that into the following histogram, since the excerpt table gives us percentages.

1%
 
20+
1.6%
 
15-19
4.8%
 
10-14
11.6%
 
6-9
13.3%
 
4-5
20.4%
 
2-3
33.2%
 
≤1
6.5%
 
2-3
3.3%
 
4-5
2.7%
 
6-9
1.0%
 
10-14
0.3%
 
15-19
0.3%
 
20+

husband is older than wife
wife is older than husband
Figure 2. Age difference in heterosexual married couples, from US Census data from 2013 from http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/files/cps2013/tabFG3-all.xls

You might be tempted to conclude that most people marry someone their own age. But, if you did, you would be wrong!

In fact, someone on the Internet did make that conclusion. Which is what motivated me to write this.

What gives‽

First, the dark (almost black) bar in the middle, which is also the tallest bar, is only 33.2%.

I've always known "most" to mean greater than 50%.

Second, if you add up all the dark-red bars, which represents men marrying younger women and women marrying older men, you get 52.7%.

I'd interpret that as most men marying younger women and most women marrying older men.

We can see this more clearly in the following new histogram.

52.7%
 
Younger Wife
33.2%
 
≤1
14.1%
 
Younger Husband

Figure 3. Age difference in heterosexual married couples, from US Census data from 2013 from http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/files/cps2013/tabFG3-all.xls

I suspect this trend, of younger wives and older husbands, will be more pronounced if one looks outside of the U.S., Canada, and (Hajnal line) Western Europe.

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