Relationships: The First Time…

When Americans had sex, moved in with someone, and so on. Often not average.

When do people usually have sex for the first time in their lives? When do people move in with a significant other? When do they get married? The answers are usually in the form of a single value: an average or a median. Then naturally, you compare your own experiences to those averages. “I guess I grew up quickly” or “I guess I’m behind”, and the feeling you get matches the response.

It’s this weird feeling you get from not being average. Not “normal”.

But eventually in life, you realize that you have your own timeline. You are not average. In fact, a lot of the time it’s more normal to not be average.

For example, the average age that Americans first have sex is 17 years. However, many have sex earlier and many later. The average only describes the rough middle of the age range. The same goes for other relationship milestones. There’s a spread. There’s a distribution.

You can see these distributions through data from the National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With the public use data files from 2013-15, I tabulated when Americans first had sex, when they first moved in with someone, when they married, when they had a baby, and when they divorced.

The shifting age markers represent median ages. The bars show the percentage of people at the respective ages experienced their firsts.

The survey only samples from 15- to 45-year-olds, so it’s not quite a representative sample of the entire population, but it provides a good sense of time. And not including divorce, you see the occurrences of the milestones taper off towards the younger and older ages.

My main point — that average (or median) doesn’t mean normal — makes itself especially obvious. Only the people who fall into a single gray bar match the median. Then there’s everyone else. The normal ones.

Become a member. Learn to visualize data. From beginner to advanced.

Join Today

Membership

This is for people interested in the process of creating, designing, and exploring data graphics. Your support goes directly to FlowingData, an independently run site.

What You Get

  • Instant access to tutorials on how to make and design data graphics
  • Source code and files to use with your own data
  • In-depth courses on visualization in R
  • Hand-picked links and resources from around the web
  • Members-only newsletter

Favorites

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.

Unemployment in America, Mapped Over Time

Watch the regional changes across the country from 1990 to 2016.

How the American Work Day Changed in 15 Years

The American Time Use Survey recently released results for 2018. That makes 15 years of data. What’s different? What’s the same?

A Day in the Life of Americans

I wanted to see how daily patterns emerge at the individual level and how a person’s entire day plays out. So I simulated 1,000 of them.