30 years of marriages in Singapore

Manas Sharma, Arihant Parsoya and Venkatesh Rajamanickam

While looking to do a short visualization design project before breaking for the winter vacation, we stumbled upon interesting datasets on the excellent Data.gov.sg which is Singapore government's portal to its publicly-available datasets from 70 public agencies.

Perhaps no country has changed as dramatically over the last few decades as Singapore has. While most of that remarkable change has been in the economic realm, we wanted to find out how much the country has changed socially. We found many interesting datasets related to crime, entertainment, arts, education, ethnicity, travel etc., which would have helped us understand social change. However we found the data on marriages the most comprehensive as it was rich with age, education and religion as attributes, and the data was available for the past three decades (1984–2015) – the period we were particularly interested in.

We downloaded and started analyzing the available 30 odd datasets. The data was primarily available in two categories:
a. Statistics on non-Muslim marriages of resident population, obtained from records maintained by the Registry of Marriages. They included all civil marriages solemnized by the Registrar of Marriages, pastors of churches, priests of Hindu temples and other registered solemnizers; and
b. Statistics on Muslim marriages, obtained from records maintained by the Registry of Muslim Marriages.

For the purpose of this exercise, we took up only the non-Muslim marriage data. The chord diagrams below can be hovered-over or rotated to reveal more information, and the graphs can be hovered-over. Thus these visualizations are not optimised for touch screen devices.


People are getting married later, but predominantly within the same age group

Among both brides and grooms, by far the largest decrease in marriages is in the age group 20-24, and the largest increase is in the age group 30-34. There is a substantial decrease in the age group below 20 and a corresponding increase in age groups 40 and above. This is the case around the world – people are getting married later or not at all, and more so in wealthier countries. The relationship between rise in income levels and marriage age in Singapore confirms to worldwide trends.


People are getting married predominantly within the same religion, but of late we can see some diversity

One thing that stands out is how remarkably stable the religious composition of the population has remained over the last 30 years. A tighter control of ethnic composition which is an imprecise proxy for religion perhaps is the reason.


Big gains in higher education

We see big increase in university educated brides and grooms and a big decrease in brides and grooms with secondary & below education. The distribution of marriages across the three education groups among brides and grooms is nearly identical.


We have barely scratched the surfaces of the data in terms of arriving at meaningful insights. We would love to hear from you--especially those of you who possess a richer and a more nuanced understanding of the changing face of Singapore society. This is a work in progress. Tell us what more we could do, both in terms of the data analysis and its visual presentation. Manas and Arihant have blogged about the design process here.

About the data

The analysis and visualization is made from datasets downloaded from Data.gov.sg on 20 Dec 2016, and made available under the terms of the Singapore Open Data Licence version 1.0. The analysis or transformation of data presented here should not be attributed to the Singapore Government or its Statutory Boards.

Created at: Information Design Lab IDC IIT Bombay
Published on: 22 December 2016