December 4, 2014

Tying the knot again? Chances are, there’s a bigger age gap than the first time around

men more likely to remarry woman much youngerThere’s a common stereotype that American men who remarry are especially likely to walk down the aisle with a younger woman. A new Pew Research analysis of census data finds that’s largely true.

Not only are men who have recently remarried more likely than those beginning a first marriage to have a spouse who is younger; in many cases, she is much younger. Some 20% of men who are newly remarried have a wife who is at least 10 years their junior, and another 18% married a woman who is 6-9 years younger. By comparison, just 5% of newlywed men in their first marriage have a spouse who is 10 years younger, and 10% married a woman who is 6-9 years younger.

On the whole, remarriage is on the rise – four in ten new marriages include at least one partner who has been married before, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. The number of adults who have ever remarried now stands at 42 million—a threefold increase since 1960.

This analysis is based upon recently released data from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), and focusses on adults who have married in the past 12 months. Due to data limitations, individuals in same-sex marriages are not analyzed.

Over half (57%) of newly remarried men have a partner who is within 5 years of their age, compared with 80% of newlywed men in their first marriage.

The likelihood of having an older wife does not differ markedly for newlyweds in a first versus a subsequent marriage—6% of men who remarried, married someone at least 6 years older, as did 5% of those who married for the first time.

Among women who have recently remarried, the likelihood of having a much younger spouse is far smaller than among remarried men, but still greater than among women in their first marriage. Just 5% of remarried women have a husband 10 or more years younger, compared with 1% of wives in their first marriage. And 6% of remarried wives have a husband 6-9 years their junior, compared with 2% of wives in their first marriage.

Like men, the majority of women marry someone near their own age, and this is more often the case among those in their first marriage. While 78% of wives in their first marriage are within five years of their husband’s age, this share is 62% for remarried wives.

Some 13% of newly remarried women have a husband who is at least 10 years older than they are, compared with 7% of women in their first marriage. And 14% of remarried women are 6-9 years younger than their husband, as are 11% of those who are in their first marriage.

Topics: Marriage and Divorce

  1. Photo of Gretchen Livingston

    is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.