For better, for worse: An examination of the decline in marital prevalence in sub -Saharan Africa

Kristine R Baker, University of Pennsylvania


Marriage in sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing a revolution in its proportions married, ceasing to be “universal and early.” Most of the focus in past research on changes in African marriages has been on age at first marriage, rather than on the proportions ever marrying, where the true changes are really occurring. This dissertation aimed to give greater attention to ongoing changes in marital prevalence, offering evidence of the importance of prevalence change, both in terms of intensity of change and effects on families. Do recent declines in African marriages rates indicate that women are postponing marriage or dropping out of the marriage market? When the mean age at marriage is measured by the Preston's (1987) intercensal approach, the mean age at marriage increases only nominally. With other methods, the effect of proportions ever-marrying often gets confused with the effect of changes in the age at marriage. Forecasts for cohorts born in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s show African marriages undergoing dramatic changes in levels of ultimate proportions never marrying across cohorts, from an average of 1.5% in 1990 to a projection of 10% in 2020. Due to the deficit of methods by which to measure and model male nuptiality, this study also presents a new approach to modeling male nuptiality, allowing comparisons of changes in male and female marital prevalence. The dissertation ends with a more detailed analysis of the decline among the Tswana, in the Gaborone and Kgatleng districts of Botswana. Marriage is a doubtful proximate determinant of fertility, though, as first births commonly occur before marriage. Qualitative data and census data are used to examine this gap between marriage and motherhood, and which women are dropping out of the marriage market. A new socioeconomic trend is revealed: whereas women with more education were less likely to marry in the past, recently women with higher than secondary education marry at higher levels, suggesting that marriage is increasingly becoming a privilege of the more educated.

Subject Area

Demographics|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Baker, Kristine R, "For better, for worse: An examination of the decline in marital prevalence in sub -Saharan Africa" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3095855.