At what age did women get married in the 1970s?

An odd question motivated by recent events.


First the disclaimer, Judge Roy Moore creeps me out … and I’m certainly no apologist for older men who hit on teenage girls. Period.

That said, two comments got me wondering.

First, a Clinton apologist was on TV saying that Bill deserved a pass for his sexual transgressions and abuses because “things were different in those days.”

Say, what?  Different how?

Separately, a friend bad-quipped about the sterotype of Southern girls marrying young – often in their early teens.

So, I started to wonder: what were things like in “those days” – specifically,in Alabama, when Judge Moore is alleged to have been hitting on teenage girls.


What I discovered certainly doesn’t make Moore any less creepy or exonerate him, but it is interesting.


According to the US Census Bureau, the median age of first marriages in 1970 was 22.5 years for men and for 20.6 years for women.

For reference, by 2009 those ages had jumped to 28.4 for men and 26.5 for women.

More specifically, in 1970, 42% of first-time brides were under 20 … said differently, 42% were teenagers.

That number really surprised me.



What about Alabama? Do women marry younger there?

I couldn’t find specific data on Alabama in 1970, but did find a state-by-state comparison on recent data.

The bottom line: Alabama trends low … women tend to marry at an earlier age there … not by much – just by a year or two.



OK, so did my wise-cracking friend have a point?

Could creepy Judge Moore claim that he was just hitting on the prime pool of marriage eligibles?

Of course not.

In 1970, only 6% of grooms were over 30 … and that number seems to match up well with the number of 30 and over brides (chart above).

Seems reasonable to conclude that, even in 1970, the 30-somethings were marrying each other … not plucking candidates out of sock hops.



So, while the Clinton apologist was right that things were different then …

… and my buddy was directionally right that women married younger in the 1970s, especially in Alabama …

… that doesn’t let Bill Clinton or Judge Moore off the hook.

They’re both still creeps.



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