Early 40s and still unmarried: A continuing trend in Thailand

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



In many parts of the world, including Thailand, marriage is being delayed and increasing proportions of women and men will never marry. The results reported in this article are based on microdata samples of the 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 Thai censuses, supplemented by focus group data. The increases in proportions never-married that had been observed between 1970 and 1990 continued through the decade of the 1990s. However, unlike earlier decades, changes in the 1990s were much greater for men than for women. Much of the difference in proportions never-married among women can probably be explained by changing socioeconomic composition of the population, but this may be less true for men. There is some evidence of a marriage squeeze for highly educated women and for men with the least formal schooling. Qualitative data suggest that while marriage may no longer be necessary, there remain abundant social pressures, particularly for women to formalize unions. Most young people still expect to get married at some point, if a suitable partner can be found, since the positive aspects of marriage still seem to outweigh the negative ones. Financial circumstances remain very important, however, in ascertaining whether one is ready or able to marry.