European Journal of Population

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 365–382 | Cite as

Age Differences in Unions: Continuity and Divergence Among Swedish Couples Between 1932 and 2007

  • Martin KolkEmail author


Age differences in unions have important implications for a number of demographic and societal outcomes. This study examines patterns of age differences in Swedish marital and childbearing unions during the twentieth century, using administrative register data on all first births (1932–2007) and first marriages (1968–2007). All first births are further analyzed by civil status of the parents, and non-married and married parents are compared. The study discusses the theoretical and methodological importance of distinguishing between age heterogamy (absolute age differences) and age hypergamy (gendered age differences) and examines changes in both measures. Results show that age differences in unions changed only slowly over the twentieth century. Age hypergamy decreased at a slow pace, while age heterogamy showed a u-shaped pattern with increasing heterogamy the last decades. These results are confirmed in quantile analyses. Standardizations are also done to examine the influence of age distribution of first unions. Trends for marital versus childbearing unions are similar overall.


Age differences Union formation Fertility Marriage Homogamy Sweden 



The study is supported by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) via the Swedish Initiative for Research on Microdata in the Social and Medical Sciences (SIMSAM): Stockholm University SIMSAM Node for Demographic Research, Grant 340-2013-5164. Support was also received from STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education) and the Sweden-America Foundation. I am grateful for suggestions and comments by Gunnar Andersson, Margarita Chudnovskaya and Juho Härkönen.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Demography Unit, Department of SociologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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