Age Homogamy and Modernization: Evidence From Turn-of-the-Twentieth Century Sweden

  • Martin Dribe Lund University
  • Maria Stanfors Lund University


Marriage is a fundamental institution with implications for economic and social development. The age difference between spouses reflects social relations across time and space. It has decreased with modernization, presumably because marriage for sentimental, rather than instrumental, reasons has become widespread. This study investigates age differences between spouses and how they changed at the time of the industrial revolution in Sweden. We analyze spatial differences in age homogamy by linking them to indicators of industrialization and modernization at the individual and community level. We use full- count census data of about 600,000 couples in 1880-1900. The results show socioeconomic and spatial differences between different measures of age homogamy, but do not support a link between cultural change and change in age homogamy. Instead they are more consistent with explanations focusing on how industrialization and urbanization relaxed the old Malthusian marriage pattern, weakening the link between property and wealth, and, by extension, that to marriage and smaller age differences between spouses.