Snapshot from the Tunisia and Libya graph
© Gapminder / Your Middle East
Snapshot from the Tunisia and Libya graph
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Last updated: June 6, 2013

Yes, Arab women marry later these days

Banner Icon Health By using the groundbreaking graphs of Gapminder, we are able to clearly illustrate and explain transformations in the modern Arab family.

In 1973, the average Libyan woman had 7.6 children and married at the age of 19. About three decades later, in 2005, those figures had been transformed into 2.9 and 29 respectively. In Tunisia, we can identify a similar development. Average age for first marriage among women was 22 in 1973, a number that just like in Libya became 29 in 2005.

In a nutshell, Arab women marry later and later

If we look at Yemen, however, the graph (see above) takes a slightly different turn. Between 1959 and 1980, not much changed in terms of average age for first marriage among women. But the number of children grew drastically from 7.3 to 9. It was not until 1984 that things turned – in 2004 women married at the age of 22 and gave birth to 5.9 children on average.

Interestingly, the West Bank and Gaza have seen a relatively stable curve. In 1968, women entered into marriage at the age of 22, and had 8 children. Almost 40 years later, marriage still happened around the same time, most women were now 23. But the big change took place on the children per woman quota; a stable decrease from 8 children to 4.8.

According to Gapminder, part of the explanation can be found in the norms of the modern family.

"Today a couple is expected to have their own place to live as married. Many families have to to save for a long time before their children are able to marry. This social norm is a relative new phenomenon and a major explanation for the increased age at marriage," the organization states.

You can explore the graphs on your own here.

Adam Hedengren
Adam is co-founder and managing editor of Your Middle East. He speaks Arabic and has lived in Damascus, Cairo, and most recently Tunis.
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