Hindrance or Dividend? Changes in Marriage on Women’s Employment Prospects in 21 African Countries

Fatou Jah, Cornell University

The study of how marital transitions relate to employment is central to demography because of the linkages between marriage, employment and women’s social/economic status, and how all of these affect fertility transitions. Yet no large-scale historical examination of the question using recent African data exists. Employing multiple data sources and a variety of statistical estimations, I decompose the observed change in women’s employment in each country into three different components: changes in aggregate marriage, changes in employment returns to marriage and changes in other contextual factors. Results indicate that in the majority of the 21 sampled countries with historical data, the returns to marriage rather than aggregate marriage or country-specific influences on employment opportunity drive the changes, whether gains or reversals, since 1991. Implications for the fertility transition, women’s position and gender inequality in the region are discussed.

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Presented in Session 68: Demography with a Gender Lens