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The Rise of Age Homogamy in 19th Century Western Europe

Authors


  • *

    Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), P.O. Box 11650, 2502 AR The Hague, Netherlands.

  • **

    Center for Sociological Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Van Evenstraat 2B, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.

  • ***

    Departamento de Sociología II (Ecología Humana y Población), Facultad de CC. PP. y Sociología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

  • ****

    Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Korte Meer 5, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.

  • Department of Economic History and Interfaculty Center for Gerontology, University of Geneva, 40 boulevard du Pont d’Arve, Ch-1211 Genève 4, Switzerland.

  • ******

    Center for Sociological Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Van Evenstraat 2B, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.

  • This article was edited by Jay Teachman.

Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Korte Meer 5, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium (Bart.vandeputte@ugent.be) Tel.: 003292646800, Fax: 003292646975.

Abstract

In many parts of Western Europe the age at first marriage and the level of celibacy declined in the second half of the 19th century. This weakening of the European marriage pattern (EMP) can be interpreted as a “classic” response to the increase of the standard of living, but a more far-reaching interpretation is that the erosion of the EMP was part of a cultural shift characterized by the rise of a new, less instrumental and more egalitarian view on marriage and partner selection. The latter vision implies the increase of the preference for a same age marriage. We test this explanation by using a combined Belgian-Dutch data set of marriage certificates (N = 766,412). Our findings corroborate the “cultural shift thesis.”

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