, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 460–474 | Cite as

An analysis of the differences between marriage statistics from registration and those from censuses and surveys

  • Ellen Linna Jamison
  • Donald S. Akers


There are three sets of data far marriage statistics in the United States: marriage registration from the National Center for Health Statistics, retrospective data from censuses and surveys conducted by the United States Bureau of the Census, and indirect estimates from current marital status. None of these data are in agreement, and this complicates the use of marriage statistics for fertility projections or for other purposes. In order to select one best set of data, or at least to interpret the differences properly, the authors have compared the three sources for first marriages by sex.

For the 1960's, first-marriage statistics are closefor all three sources; but, for the 1950'S, maritalstatus estimates are lowest. Which series, then, may the researcher rely on? Registration estimates and retrospective data would seem to represent the level of first marriages mare truly, but maritalstatus data may be more accurate because (1) there are sources of error in the registration and retrospective data, (2) marital-status data do not display a downward trend, and (3) the lower rates are closer to rates recorded before the marriage boom of W arld War II.

The authors speculate, finally, on reasons for the differences. Any explanation assumes some excess of remarriages during the 1950's: large numbers were divorced during the 1940'S, and many who were separated because of the dislocation of the war, or who were divorced and did not remarry, may have come to be considered single by the end of the 1950's.


Marital Status Retrospective Data Current Population Survey Registration Data Marriage Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Hay tree conjunies de datos de estadísticas matrimoniales en los Estados Unidos: registro de matrimonios por el Centro de Estadisticas de Salud, dates retrospectivos de censos y encuestas conducidos por la Oficina de Cenos de Estados Unidos, y estimaciones indirectas obtenidas a traves del actual status marital. N inguna de estas fuentes permite obiener resultados coincidentes, y esto complica el uso de estadisticas matrimoniales para proyecciones y otros propósitos. Con la intención de seleccionar un conjunto mejor de datos, 0 al menos de interpretar las diferencias con propiedad, los autores han comparado las tres fuentes de primeros matrimonios por sexo.

Para los años 60, las estadistica de primer matrimonio son cercanas para las tree fuentes; pero, para los años 50, las estimaciones de status marital son las mas bajas. En que series, pues, debe el investigador confiar? Las estimaciones de registro y los datos retrospectivos parecen representor el nivel de primeros matrimonios mas fielmenie, pero los datos de status marital pueden ser más exactos porque: (1) hay fuentes de error en los registros y datos retrospectivos, (2) los datos de status marital no muestran una tendencia descendente, y (3) las tasas mas bajas son cercanas a las tasas registradas antes del auge de matrimonios de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Los ouiores especulan, finalmente, en las razones de esta diferencia. Ninguna explicación asume excesos de nuevos matrimonios durante los añoe 1950. Muchos se divorciaron durante los anos 1940, y muchos que fueron separados a causa de la dislocación de la guerra, 0 que se divorciaron y no volvieron a casarse, pueden heber sido considerados solietoe a fines de los años 50.


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  1. 3.
    A full description of the MRA, including a listing of states and outlying areas by the year in which central files of marriages were established and the year of admission to the MRA, may be found in United States Public Health Service, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Division,Vital Statistics of the United States: 1962, III,Marriage and Divorce (1965), Section 4, Technical Appendix.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    United States Bureau of the Census,U.S. Census of Population: 1960, Vol. I, Characteristics of the Population, Part I, United States Summary, 1964, Detailed Characteristics;Subject Reports, Marital Status, Final Report PC(2)-4E (1966); Age at First Marriage, Final Report PC(2)-4D, 1966;U.S. Census of Population: 1950, Vol. IV,Special Reports, Part 2, Ch. D. Marital Status (1953); Ch. E, Duration of Current Marital Status, 1953;1940 Census of Population, Vol. IV, Characteristics by Age;Differential Fertility-1940 and 1910, 1943–45, in several volumes.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Donald S. Akers, “On Measuring the Marriage Squeese,”Demography, IV, 2 (1967).Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Arthur A. Campbell, “Method of Estimating the Cumulative First Marriage Rates of all Women, by Age, as of January 1, 1917 to 1962,” Scripps Foundation for Research in Population Problems, 1963 (unpublished paper). For a brief description of the method, see Ronald Freedman, Pascal K. Whelpton, and Arthur A. Campbell,Family Planning, Sterility, and Population Growth (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959) pp. 350–55. The rates were applied to estimates of females shown in United States Bureau of the Census, “Estimates of the Population of the United States by Single Years of Age, Color, and Sex: 1900 to 1959,”Current Population Reports, Series P-25, No. 311 (July, 1965).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen Linna Jamison
  • Donald S. Akers
    • 1
  1. 1.United States Bureau of the CensusUSA

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