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.
Get unlimited access to tutorials, courses, and practical guides. Make great charts.

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

  • Learn to make any chart with instant access to step-by-step tutorials.
  • Download source code and files to use with your own data.
  • In-depth courses on visualization to learn at your own pace.
  • Stay up-to-date with additional resources and visualization tools.
  • Get the members-only newsletter.

Favorites

Best Data Visualization Projects of 2016

Here are my favorites for the year.

One Dataset, Visualized 25 Ways

“Let the data speak” they say. But what happens when the data rambles on and on?

How You Will Die

So far we’ve seen when you will die and how other people tend to die. Now let’s put the two together to see how and when you will die, given your sex, race, and age.

The Most Gender-Switched Names in US History

We use some names mostly for boys and some mostly for girls, but then there is a small percentage that, over time, switched from one gender to another. Which names made the biggest switch?