Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 161–188

A Characterization of World Union Patterns at the National and Regional Level


DOI: 10.1007/s11113-013-9301-x

Cite this article as:
Ortega, J.A. Popul Res Policy Rev (2014) 33: 161. doi:10.1007/s11113-013-9301-x


Patterns of union formation at the National and Regional level are documented for the first time based on a unique data set. Information on levels and trends in almost every country or territory of the world are monitored by building on the United Nations’ World Marriage Data 2008. Union formation has been postponed by an average of 2 years since the 1970s, a pattern observed in all regions. In this way, the developing world in the 2000s resembles more the developed countries in the 1970s than the developing world. There are, however, increasing differences between countries since postponement has been faster in the developed world. Union formation remains almost universal in many regions of the world, with permanent celibacy still low at the global level, but increasing in some parts of the world. Female adolescent marriage and a large age gap between spouses remain high in the least developed countries. Systematic patterns of unbalanced marriage markets characterized by excess male or female celibacy patterns are observed in many countries. Consensual unions are reported in most of the countries of the world with different levels of prevalence, and an effort should be kept at keeping census information relevant by adapting to new patterns of union formation.


Union patterns Singulate mean age at marriage Permanent celibacy Marriage squeeze Consensual unions Postponement of union formation 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Economía e Historia EconómicaEdificio FES, Campus Unamuno, Universidad de SalamancaSalamancaSpain

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