Child marriage is rare in the U.S., though this varies by state

Source: Pew Research Center

About 57,800 minors in the U.S. ages 15 to 17 were married as of 2014. That might sound like a lot of people (and it is), but it’s also just five of every 1,000 in that age group, a Pew Research Center analysis of 2014 data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey finds.

By contrast, 18 of every 1,000 of those ages 18 to 19 were married, and among those ages 20 to 24, the number rose to 107 out of every 1,000.

The rate of child marriage varies widely by state. It is most common in West Virginia and Texas, where about seven of every 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds were married in 2014. Several other states in the South and the West, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada and California, also have above-average rates of child marriage. 

Marriage among 15- to 17-year-olds is less common in the Northeast and the Midwest. In Maine and Rhode Island, for example, only two of every 1,000 in this age group were married that year – less than half the national average. The same was true in Alaska.

Although child marriage is not very common in the U.S., it is legal in almost every state. Nearly every state technically prohibits people younger than 18 from marrying, but each of these jurisdictions has exceptions to these laws. In at least 36 states, for example, minors can marry with judicial consent. And in 34 states, 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with their parents’ permission. Two states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, allow 12- and 13-year-old girls respectively and 14-year-old boys to marry with parental and judicial permission. (Data on marriages among those under the age of 15 are not available from the American Community Survey.)

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1 reply

  1. Sorry to repeat myself, but …. child marriages should always be seen in connection with ‘the start of sexual activity’. It is not correct to talk against child marriages and at the same time say nothing about ‘the start of sexual activity’, which often happens to be around 15.

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