Several decades ago, marriage among women in most of sub-Saharan Africa could reasonably be described as early and near-universal. However, it is apparent from a number of studies published in the past two decades that in many countries in the region, there is a trend toward delays in the onset of marriage, with early marriage becoming less prevalent. This trend is most notable among the urban and better-educated segments of the population. Rising age at first marriage, in turn, has played an important role in the ongoing fertility transition in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This paper examines union patterns of young women (aged 15–29) in more than two dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with the objective of documenting and analyzing the extent and nature of the ongoing changes in entry to union that are taking place in the region. We use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHSs), and focus on those countries that have had multiple DHSs, so as to allow examination of within-country trends in union patterns. These countries represent nearly three-quarters of the population of sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to examining national-level data, the paper looks at data separately for urban and rural places, and includes as well an examination of data on union patterns in capital cities. After looking at trends in marriage, we analyze factors associated with these trends, most notably women’s education and economic well-being. The final part of the paper assesses the role of the observed declines in the percentages of women in union in contributing to the fertility transition that is taking place in sub-Saharan Africa.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 19, 2013
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