Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Hans-Peter Kohler


The three essays in this dissertation examine issues related to family structure and marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa. The first two essays explore how family structures influence children's outcomes. The third essay focuses on the data quality of marriage histories collected in a longitudinal survey. The first essay examines whether the timing and type of orphanhood is associated with early sexual debut and early marriage among 12-19-year-old adolescents in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda. I also test whether education mediates orphans' risk of early sexual initiation and early marriage. Discrete-time event history models suggest that female double orphans, regardless of timing of orphanhood, have greater odds of early sexual debut than do nonorphans. Education explains little of their increased risk. In contrast, male orphans of any type reveal no increased vulnerability to early sexual debut. Uganda is the only country where female orphans, specifically double orphans and those who are paternal orphans before age 10, have greater odds of early marriage, with education accounting for a small portion of the risk. The second essay investigates the relationship between parental divorce and children's schooling in rural Malawi. Child fixed effects regression models are used to control for unobserved heterogeneity that could affect both parental divorce and children's schooling. Results suggest that children from divorced marriages have completed, on average, fewer grades of schooling than children from intact marriages. No differences in current school enrollment and schooling gap (among children currently in school) are found by parents' marriage status. The third essay measures the reliability of marriage histories collected in two waves of the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health. Multivariate regression analyses are used to examine the characteristics associated with misreporting marriages and dates of marriage. Paired and unpaired statistical tests assess whether marriage indicators are affected by misreporting. Results indicate that a significant proportion of marriages are underreported and that misreporting is not random. Several individual, marriage, and survey-related characteristics are associated with underreporting marriages and misreporting marriage dates. I also find that misreporting leads to biased marriage indicators.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."