This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

There Are More Child Marriages in the US Than You Might Think

Tens of thousands of children--mainly girls--are married every year in the United States. That's the conclusion of Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained At Last, a nonprofit organization trying to end the practice. She was interviewed this morning on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday:
We at Unchained At Last, last year, went and collected marriage license data from across the United States. We were able to get the data from 38 states. The other 12 don't even track marriage age. And in those 38 states just between 2000 and 2010, more than 167,000 children as young as 12 were married - almost all of them girls married to adult men. And so extrapolating from what we found, we estimate that nearly a quarter million children were married across all 50 states in that decade.
It turns out that all 50 states allow child marriage. In most, as here in California, you need parental consent and a court order if you are under 18, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.

Weirdly enough, as Reiss points out, this is going on in the U.S. even though we know that on a global scale child marriage is a bad thing:
...the U.S. State Department in setting its foreign policy established that marriage before 18 is a human rights abuse. And the U.S. State Department lists ending marriage before 18 globally as a key strategy toward empowering adolescent girls. And yet, somehow state legislators have not gotten this message that marriage before 18 is a human rights abuse.
Indeed, as a society we are sufficiently uninterested in these things that the National Center for Health Statistics stopped collecting detailed data on marriage and divorce more than twenty years ago. To be sure, teenage marriages are much less common now than were back when I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the topic, but we are still seeing girls not yet even in their teens being married. Something is wrong here.

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