birth cohorts in Dakar, Senegal, and found that the employment status of men had a significant impact on the likelihood of marriage. Moreover, while men of the earlier generation (born between 1930 and 1944) who were unemployed were equally likely to marry as their working counterparts, men in the younger cohorts (born between 1955 and 1964) who were unemployed were significantly and substantially less likely to marry. Apparently economic uncertainty was more a factor in the decision to marry for the younger generation than for the older generation.
There is some discussion in the literature, although for the most part not systematic analysis, that marriage has become more burdensome financially in the last several decades. In the case of African societies, the changing nature of bridewealth, with cash payments replacing payments in kind, is believed to be a contributing factor in delaying marriage of men because more time is needed to acquire the necessary sums and because the responsibility for payments is said to be shifting from the future husband’s extended family to the bridegroom himself (Enel, Pison, and Lefebvre, 1994; Isiugo-Abanihe, 1994; National Research Council, 1993: Chapter 3). (See the section below for a discussion of bridewealth.) More fundamentally, a transformation is said to have emerged in many societies in the nature of the household economy and concomitantly in the necessities essential for the establishment of a household. As has been argued for Indonesia, “the assumption in the past that marriage formed a basic productive economic unit for farming or trading, has been modified by the current requirement that basic consumption needs such as capital for a house, or consumer goods, and basic educational attainments must be achieved before a marriage can ‘wisely’ take place” (Hull, 2002:5).
In countries as diverse as Nigeria and Egypt, researchers have observed that the cost of marriage apparently factors much more into the decision about the timing of a man’s marriage than it did earlier. In Nigeria, the oil boom in the 1970s fueled a change in brides’ expectations of what purchases grooms needed in order to marry (National Research Council, 1993: Chapter 3). In Egypt, where housing, furniture, and appliances are required for marriage and “the bulk of financial obligations … are still borne … by the groom and his family,” the cost of marriage is estimated to have increased dramatically in the last 30 years (Singerman and Ibrahim, 2003:97). While there has not been a rigorous analysis linking the cost of setting up a household with the timing of marriage in Egypt, the fact that the proportion of individuals in the census marriage registration category, katb al-kitaab, in which the marriage is registered but the couple has yet to establish a marital residence, increased fourfold between 1986 and 1996, while the annual rate of marriage barely changed, is an indirect indication that rising costs have lead to a delay in the ceremony (Singerman and Ibrahim, 2003). While this piece of evidence does not firmly establish a link between