Age gap between women and their husbands in Morocco

In Arab-Muslim societies, the age gap between spouses sometimes records relatively high values, since the traditions and social norms in these countries nurture and accentuate this practice that requires the wife to be the youngest in the couple.

The HCP note, released on October 11, 2022, reveals that half of the couples had an age difference of more than 6 years in 2004 and more than seven years in 2011 and 2018. As for the average age gap, it increased from 7.2 years in 2004 to 7.7 years in 2011 and then to 7.9 years in 2018.

By residence setting, the average age gaps do not stand out and keep the same trend. Couples living in urban areas have an average age gap of about 7.4 years in 2004, 7.9 years in 2011, and 8.1 years in 2018. Rural couples have average age gaps that are 0.4 years lower than urban couples in all three survey years.

This increase in the average age gap, seen nationally since 2004, is the result of a decrease in the share of women married to younger or same-age men on the one hand and an increase in the share of women married to older men on the other.

Indeed, in 2018, it is found that 87.1% of women are younger than their husbands, 9.5% are the same age and only 3.4% are older. These percentages were respectively around 82.9%, 12.0% and 5.1% in 2004. In addition, the percentage of couples with age gaps between 2 and 9 years is decreasing, while the percentage of couples with gaps between 10 and 20 years is increasing over time. 

The same source indicates that “The levels of age gaps observed between spouses may be a response to partners’ age preferences that are frequently driven by traditional gender roles and by an unconscious psychological process of reproduction and survival.

“Indeed, men, whose objective is to perpetuate the lineage and increase their chances of procreation, generally opt for younger women who are not under the pressure of the biological clock, and women rather lean towards men with a stable economic status that will ensure the security and material comfort of their children and consequently increase their chance of survival,” the note adds.

In the same vein, the HCP explains that men value, overall, the physical conditions and beauty that are often associated with youth in women, while their female counterparts rather emphasize maturity and sense of responsibility. These differences in preferences lead to men seeking younger women and women seeking older men. 

To date, there are no official statistics on partner age preferences. However, the results of the international values survey conducted in Morocco in 2021 show the persistence of conceptions associated with the social roles of the two sexes.

According to the 2018 NSHS data, it appears that women’s labor force status influences the age difference. Indeed, the age gap in couples where the wife does not work is 8.1 years on average, compared to 6.6 years in couples where the woman is employed. And if the latter have a high school diploma or higher, then this age difference drops to 5.4 years.

Thus, educated and employed women are more likely to marry men of similar age. This is partly explained by the fact that women who have entered universities or colleges are more likely to meet men of similar or close age during their study years.  

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