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These Countries Have the Oldest, and Youngest, First Marriages

Attention, men wanting to marry older ladies, and conversely women looking for crusty sugar daddies: Cast your nets wide over Europe to find your mate, as that's where the marriage age tends to reach the steepest global heights.

The vast international differences in when people conduct their first marriage are shown in these new maps from Knoema, a visualization service based in Washington, D.C. Knoema has taken data from the United Nations, the World Bank, and national statistics agencies to unscramble the mysteries of where people kick off their very first "I dos," color-coded by the average age range in torrid orange, burning red, and sultry aubergine. (Go here for the full-screen, interactive version.)

The above map shows the average marriage ages for women. Yellow-shaded nations have the youngest female marriages at between roughly 17 and 20 years of age, and include Niger (17.7 years), Chad (18.3), Mozambique (18.7), India (20.2), and Guyana (19.6 years). The oldest women getting hitched hail from European countries like Sweden (32.2), France (31.6), Ireland (31.4), and Italy (30). Good buddies the U.K. and the U.S.A. hew to the center of the aisle with each at 26.3 years young.

Switch to males: They tend to get married older in many of the same countries, like France (33.4), Germany (33.7), and Sweden (34.3). There are outposts of early-'30s grooms in North Africa, too – Libya, Algeria, Morocco – as well as in Australia, Japan, and South Korea. The youngest brides come out of central and southern African nations and Tajikistan, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Belize. Here's what that looks like:

Knoema summarizes the state of world marriage:

In general the higher is per capita income, the older are people who get married at first time. In developed European Countries like Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Finland the age at first marriage exceeds 30 years. On the other hand in low income African countries the age at first marriage is between 17-20 years for females and 23-25 years for males.

There's no word about how unofficial child marriage comes into the picture. The Afghan government conducted a recent survey, for instance, showing that more than half of its married women tied the knot before the legal age of 18 (and about one-fifth before 15). And Afghanistan is only one of 41 countries that report having roughly a third of women aged 20 to 24 married by age 18, says Human Rights Watch.

Maps courtesy of Knoema

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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