Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Related Posts: Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy; Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930

Summary: I have looked at data for marriage in 1890 Utah found in the US census report, in detail. I spend the last two months (and a good amount of my Christmas break) compiling and analyzing the data. This post will look at marriage. A later post will look at divorce. (See Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy.)

Update: I have looked at the married female to married male ratios of Utah from 1880 to 1930. I have found that for 1880 and 1900 Utah is an outlier. For 1890 it is not. This is likely due to the fact that women in polygamous relationships  were concealing their relationships during 1890, but not so much in 1880 and 1900. See Figure 4 in Polygamy in Utah, 1880 for plots. This is likely due to the antipolygamy crusade that ramped up during the 1880’s. Therefore, the female marriage data in this post is not accurate. However, there is still lots of useful information in this post. (Aug 8, 2015)

The 1890 Census coincides with the LDS Church officially abandoning the practice of polygamy (1890). (See The Manifesto declaring this.) So the Census Record might capture evidence of polygamy, if there is any.

My questions were these. Were more women married in Utah than other states and territories? Where young female marriages occurring in Utah at a much higher rate than the rest of the country? How do male marriages compare? Are there any statistics in which Utah stands out?

Even though Utah allowed girls to marry with parental consent at 12 there is no evidence that under 15 girls were getting married in significant numbers–there were only 2 in Utah. The average for the US (Utah excluded) was 24 and the median was 9. I can’t find any evidence that girls in Utah in any age bracket were marrying at significantly different rates from the other states and territories.

I examined just about every ratio and difference that I could think of. As far as marriage is concerned Utah does not stand out. There are, however, some interesting results in the divorce data. But that’s for another post.

Mostly, the marriage results are what I consider ordinary. That is, Utah falls between the 1st and 3rd quartile of US states and territories. But even when Utah is outside the interquartile range it would have to be the most extreme outlier to be unusual. If there are other states or territories with a comparable number it becomes difficult to attribute Utah’s value to polygamy. To attribute a statistical value to Utah’s unique institution would require the absolute highest or lowest value in a given category. So even if Utah is not ordinary, it is not necessarily unusual.

I wanted to look at 1880 Census data since information was collected for conjugal condition. But that information is not given in the Census Report. So for now I’m limited to the 1890 data. (Perhaps I can get this data in the future.)

As with other census analysis I compare the white population of Utah to the white population of the other states and territories of the United States.

Marriage Laws

Marriage laws differed from state to state. Generally (and I did not expect this) males had to be older than females to marry with or without parental consent. Typically, males had to be 21 and females 18 to marry without parental consent. Most states allowed minors to marry with parental consent.

As far as age of marriage the Dakota Territory stands out. As of 1886 it allowed girls as young as 15 to marry without parental consent (I was very surprised); boys could marry at 18 without parental consent. Arizona, Idaho, and Maryland allowed girls to marry at 16 without parental consent.

A few states allowed girls as young as 12 to marry with parental consent. They are: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. Several states do not list a minimum age at which minors may marry and only specify they must have parental consent.

See the table at the end of this post for a state by state list of when persons may marry with and without parental consent. The data is from A Report on Marriage and Divorce in the United States 1867 – 1886 (pp. 29-31) by Carroll Wright, US Commissioner of Labor.

Male to Female Ratio

One statistic of interest is the male to female ratio. One argument I heard was that because of polygamy there were fewer women available for men to marry. And this effect should be exaggerated by the high male to female ratio found in the west.

The data is subdivided into age categories: Under 15; 15-19; 20-24; 25-29; 30-34; 35-44; 45-54; 55-64; 65 up; and unknown.

In most states and territories males outnumber females for every age category. Some a little. Some a lot. Figure 1A shows the male to female ratio for the Unites States and Utah. Utah is ordinary for every age category except 20-24 and 25-29. But for those categories it is nearly ordinary.

Looking at the Western division Utah compares very favorably to the other states and territories across all age categories, (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming) shown in Figure 1B.

The overall average for US states and territories (Utah excepted) is 1.15 shown in Figure 2. For Utah the male to female ratio is 1.12. For the Western Division it is 1.52.


Figure 1A: Male to Female Ratio of Utah compared to the United States by age.


Figure 1B: Male to Female Ratio of Utah Compared to Western Division by age.


Figure 2: Male to Female ratio for US, Utah, and Western Division.

Equation for Figure 1:

(total females in age category) / (total males in age category).

Equation for Figure 2:

(total females in US states and territories) / (total males in US states and territories).

Analysis of marriage data

I will say a bit on the under 15 female category. Utah showed 2 under 15 married females in the 1890 census. Most states and territories have a few in this category. The state with the highest percent was New Mexico at 0.1% of the white under 15 female population. The state with the highest number was Texas at 129. The average for the US (Utah excluded) was 24 and the median was 9. There were a total of 11 under 15 married males in the United States and there were none in Utah.


Figure 3: Married population of US by age and sex.

Equation for Figure 3:

100*(married gender population in age category)/(total white population in age category).

In most age categories for both male and female Utah is ordinary or nearly ordinary. There are a few points that are a bit high or low. Utah is an outlier in the male 65up category. I don’t know what to make of this. However, the married male to married female ratio, Figure 4, is nearly ordinary for Utah. But this doesn’t indicate the age of their wives, who were probably a several years younger. But I think it would be very difficult to positively attribute this to polygamy.

There are a few age categories where Utah is outside the interquartile range. But Utah does not qualify as unusual according to the definition in the summary.

Note: Figure 3 does not compare the total number of married females to the total number of married males. For example, at 80% males and females appear to be equal in the 35-44 category. However, what it actually indicates is that the 35-44 married women category as a percent of the 35-44 female population is equal to the 35-44 married men category as a percent of the 35-44 male population. There are not necessarily an equal number of males and females. See Figures 4 and 5 to compare actual numbers of married males and females.

Married Female to Married Male Ratio

The married female to married male ratio is given in Figure 4. Note that it is ordinary or nearly so for every age category. The 30 to 34 category shows an equal number of married females and married males for both Utah and the US, i.e. ratio is 1.

Note that Utah is a bit high in the 65 up category, but it is nearly ordinary. Below age 30 married females outnumber the married males. Above 35 married males generally outnumber married females.The under 15 category was omitted because there are no under 15 married males in Utah.

Note: Multiply the 15 to 19 category by 10 to get its correct value. (I had to divide by 10 to get it on the plot.)

Figure 5 below shows basically the same information, but is separated by sex. This gives an idea of what the relative proportions and age separations are like. This figure shows that Utah has the lowest number of married males in the 35 to 44 category, but not by much. Utah has the second lowest number of married females in the same age category, but this is not the most extreme value.


Figure 4: Married female to married male ratio by age.

Equation for Figure 4:

(number of married females in each age category) / (number of married males in each age category).


Figure 5: Married by age and sex as percent of total population.

Equation for Figure 5:

100*(married gender in age category) / (total males population + total female population, all age categories).


Figure 6: Married female to married male ratio for states and territories.

Equation for Figure 6:

(married females for states and territories) / (married males for states and territories).

Figure 6 shows the married female to married male ratio for the states and territories of the US. Note that the married female to married male ratio for Utah is basically 1 (actually its 1.003). That is, there are an equal number of married females as there are married males in the state. This seems healthy and logical. The average for the US is 0.98 and the median is 0.995. The only Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina are higher, but for all practical purposes they are equal to 1.

The average for the Western Division is 0.921 and the median is 0.926.

Final Comments

I looked at every statistic I could think of: married female/single female, married male/single male, rate of change of married female population, rate of change of married male population, married female/single male, married male/single female. I also looked at the differences between sex for each age category. That is, for example, the spread shown in Figure 5. No matter how I looked at the data Utah did not stand out in a significant way.

However, as I already mentioned, the divorce data is more interesting. I’ll post that one probably later this month.

** The data set includes every state and territory in the US in 1890 with the exception of North Dakota. The data for Rhode Island is listed twice. Once where it should be (in alphabetical order) and again where North Dakota should be. Sadly, there is no data for North Dakota for conjugal condition in the 1890 Census Report.



Table: Table of marriage ages by state.

(A Report on Marriage and Divorce in the United States 1867 – 1886 by Carroll Wright, Commissioner of Labor, pp. 29-31)

Here are a few notes from the Wright report.

Arizona: Section 2089 provides for the issuance of a license for the marriage of persons below those ages upon parental consent.
Colorado: If the minor has no parent or guardian residing in the state, the person chosen to solemnize the marriage shall exercise his discretion in joining them in marriage.
Georgia: In Georgia no parental consent seems to be required to the marriage of male minors; parental consent does not seem to be required in the case of a marriage by a female under eighteen where the publication is by bans (that is, the marriage is first publicly announced).
Idaho: Section 2430 provides for solemnization below said ages upon parental consent.
Iowa: Below the ages specified (sixteen and fourteen) in Iowa, marriage is a nullity or not, at the option of the minor, made known at any time before he or she is six months older than said ages.
Kentucky: When the male is under sixteen and the female under fourteen years of age, marriage may be declared void by courts having general equity jurisdiction, if the marriage was without parental consent, and has not been ratified by cohabitation after reaching the ages specified.
New York: …. This would seem to indicate that with parental consent a legal marriage may be had with a female under sixteen years of age.
Ohio: Must obtain parental consent to all marriages between persons under 21 and 18.
Oregon: In Oregon, if either party has no parent or guardian resident in the state and the female has resided in the county for six month prior to the application for the marriage license, parental consent is not required.
South Carolina: Section 2586…affixes a penalty for marrying a female under sixteen years of age without parental consent; such consent does not seem to be required to the marriage of a male minor.
Washington: Section 2380 provides that persons of the ages specified (twenty-one and eighteen) are capable of marriage; but section 2391 provides for issuance of license below said ages, upon parental consent.

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