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‘First comes marriage then come babies’ not so likely now

5 December 2019

Most people born in the 1980s knew the line ‘first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage’, but that’s not so common for the present generation, Stats NZ said today.

In the early 1980s, 77 percent of babies were born to married parents. More recently this has dropped to 53 percent.

“A further 30 percent of births today are to parents in a de facto relationship, couples who usually live together in a relationship akin to marriage,” population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said.

“Adults born in the 1980s are much less likely to follow the past practice of having babies after marriage.”

Good things take time is a new report released today that looks at the timing of key life events for two generations of people – parents born in 1960 and their children born in 1984.

Findings show that compared with people born in the 1960s, those born in the 1980s are on average:

• older when they marry

• older when they have children, with fewer women having them

• older if they divorce

• more likely to live longer.

Marriage and babies

Traditionally, marriage is the first major life event people embark on as young adults.

“A couple born in 1960 were likely to have married in the early 1980s, when men were around 25 years old and women around 22,” Mr Islam said.

“This is based on the median age at first marriage, where half of people are younger than this age and half are older.”

Fast-forward to more recent times when someone born in 1984 marries. They were most likely to have done so around 2012–15, when the median age at first marriage was around 30 years for males and 29 years for females.

Our 1980s-born women are generally about four years older when having their own children, compared with their early 1960s-born mothers. The median age of 1960s-born mothers at the birth of their child was 26. This has increased to just over 30 years for 1980s-born women.

Divorce and death

As the median age at marriage has increased, so has the median age at divorce. In the 1980s, it was 38 years for males and 35 years for females. By the 2010s, this had increased to 46 years for males, and just under 44 years for females.

The median duration of marriage before ending in divorce has also increased, from just over 12 years in the 1980s, to just under 14 years in the 2010s.

“Life expectancy, which indicates the average length of life, shows that 1980s-born people are living slightly longer on average than their parent’s generation,” Mr Islam said.

The life expectancy for a male born in 1960 is 86.6 years and has increased to 88.2 years for one born in 1984. Likewise, the life expectancy for a woman born in 1960 is 89.1 years, up to 90.7 years for one born in 1984.

Better medical technology and health outcomes play a part in increasing life expectancy. However, it can also be affected by a range of factors, such as smoking, diet, or environment.
9191, communications@stats.govt.nz

The Government Statistician authorises all statistics and data we publish.

For more information about these statistics:

• Visit ‘First comes marriage then come babies’ not so likely now

• See Good things take time: Changes in the timings of key life events across two generations


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