The Changing Educational Gradient in Marriage: Evidence from Malaysia

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Siow Li Lai


The rising age at marriage and non-marriage has been occurring concurrently with the rising educational level in many developing countries. This paper examines the changing relationship between educational attainment and the marriage rate (per cent ever married) and timing (age at marriage) in Malaysia over the past four decades, using multiple waves of Labour Force Survey data. Bivariate analyses show significant educational differentials in the proportion ever married and mean age at marriage for males and females, across ethnic groups and urban-rural locations. The educational effect on the rate and timing of marriage varied over time. Results from binary logistic regression show that controlling for ethnicity, urban-rural location, and age, the negative educational effect on the rate of marriage has turned positive in recent years. The change in the direction of the relationship between education and marriage rate was more pronounced for males than for females. The reduction in the educational gradient and a shift from negative to positive effect means that the conventional hypothesis of the education-marriage nexus needs to be re-assessed. The effects of rising education on the rate and timing of marriage should be considered in the implementation of the National Family Policy.


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