European marriage patterns in perspective.

Hajnal J
In: Glass DV, Eversley DE, eds. Population in history: essays in historical demography. Chicago, Illinois, Aldine Publishing Company, 1965. 101-43.

The marriage pattern of most of Europe as it existed for at least the 2 centuries preceding 1940 was unique or almost unique in the world. The distinctive marks of the European marriage pattern are a high age at marriage and a high proportion of people who never marry at all. The "European pattern" pervaded all of Europe except for the eastern and southeastern portion. In examining data for 1900, it is found that the European pattern extended over all of Europe to the west of a line running roughly from Leningrad to Trieste. Several of the Slav countries showed a different marriage pattern, a pattern that is termed the Eastern European pattern. Fewer than 5% of women remained single around their 50th birthday in Eastern Europe, but elsewhere the figure was nowhere below 10% and often above 15%. In the European pattern unmarried life for an adult woman was accepted as a normal alternative to marriage. This alternative scarcely existed in Eastern Europe. Non-European civilizations are similar to Eastern Europe, or more so. The European pattern in age at marriage can be traced back in many countries to the first 1/2 of the 18th century or even earlier. There is no record anywhere of a non-European early age at marriage. Prior to the latter half of the 17th century, there is almost no statistical evidence on marriage. Examination of the 18th centruy materials on the composition of the population by marital status is superficial, yet it is clear that as far as these data go, there is no real trace of anything but a European pattern.

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