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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies 5 Trends in the Timing of First Marriage Among Men and Women in the Developing World Barbara S. Mensch, Susheela Singh, and John B. Casterline For many demographers age at first union is worthy of attention because of the close link between marriage and the onset of childbearing. Thus a number of studies over the years have documented the contribution of changes in the timing of marriage to fertility transitions, both historically in developed countries and currently in developing countries (e.g., Casterline, 1994; Coale and Treadway, 1986; Rosero-Bixby, 1996). It has been argued, however, that “weaknesses in the field of nuptiality research stem from its heavy focus on the fertility implications of nuptiality patterns” (Smith, 1983, p. 510). In charging his fellow demographers to think more broadly about the subject of marriage, van de Walle (1993, p. 118) asserts that we should care about marriage patterns “in their own right” because understanding “nuptiality change could further the understanding of other social change.” Indeed, for those interested in family formation, the timing of first union merits investigation not only because it signals the initiation of reproductive life, but also because the marriage process reflects the way family life is organized and functions in a particular culture and because when, who, and how one marries all have implications for gender relations within society (Malhotra, 1997). The age when men and women form marital unions is influenced by social norms and expectations regarding their roles as spouse and parent—factors that are plausibly changing with globalization, urbanization, and rising educational attainment; as such, the timing of marriage should be of considerable relevance to researchers interested in the transition to adulthood in the developing world. If, for example, men are now postponing marriage because of greater expectations about job status and employment stability and the material possessions needed to form a household, and
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies women are delaying marriage because of shifting gender roles, it is important to document these patterns of behavior and understand what the potential implications are both for the individuals and for the larger society. In recent years, few demographers have heeded van de Walle’s (1993) appeal to explore the process and timing of marriage for its own sake. Yabiku and colleagues’ (Yabiku, 2003; Yabiku et al., 2002) analysis of the effect of community variables on the timing of marriage in a region of Nepal experiencing rapid social change is a notable exception.1 There is, however, a large descriptive literature. Although lacking much in the way of explanatory variables, this research documents trends and differentials in the age of first union among women, with a particular focus on the practice of early marriage in the developing world (see, e.g., Choe, Thapa, and Achmad, 2001; Heaton, Forste, and Otterstrom, 2002; Jejeebhoy, 1995; Rashad and Osman, 2003; Singh and Samara, 1996; Westoff, 2003). This interest in early marriage reflects the concern of human rights and reproductive health advocates, who in putting “child marriage” on the international agenda have emphasized the potentially harmful consequences for young women of marrying too early. Researchers at the International Center for Research on Women (2004) highlight these possible problems in a rather dramatic fashion: Child brides are robbed of the ordinary life experiences other young people take for granted. Many are forced to drop out of school. Their health is at risk because of early sexual activity and childbearing. They cannot take advantage of economic opportunities. Friendships with peers are often restricted. Child marriage deprives girls of basic rights and subjects them to undue disadvantage—and sometimes violence. Countries with a high percentage of child marriage are more likely to experience extreme and persistent poverty, and high levels of maternal and child mortality. While focus on marriage prior to age 18, the internationally established age of adulthood, has gained prominence, research has yet to establish the 1 There are also several studies that predate van de Walle’s call for further research. Fricke, Syed, and Smith’s (1986) analysis of marriage timing strategies in Pakistan is noteworthy as is Lesthaeghe, Kaufman, and Meekers (1989) investigation of nuptiality regimes in sub-Saharan Africa, where the timing of marriage and the practice of polygyny were explored in great depth. This latter study was path breaking in linking ethnographic data (including measures of dependence on subsistence agriculture, lineage systems, inheritance, and presence of various types of chiefs) to demographic data. Malhotra and Tsui’s (1996) study of the effect of norms about marriage—including the importance of setting up an independent household, the desire to work before marriage, and expectations about arranged marriage—on marriage timing in Sri Lanka is also an important contribution to the literature. To the best of our knowledge, it is the only analysis of marriage that uses panel data; however, while the attitudinal variables included in the event history models are measured prior to marriage, they are still likely to be endogenous to marriage timing.
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies causal links between early marriage and poor outcomes among women. Is it early marriage in and of itself that is the problem or is it the characteristics of those who marry early? In contrast to the extensive documentation of female age at marriage, the literature on men is quite sparse (Malhotra, 1997). In part this limited attention to men is because demographic surveys, up until the last decade or so, have been restricted to women. But it is also due to the fact that across a wide spectrum of countries and cultures, relatively few men marry during the teenage years, and it is early marriage that is considered problematic and thus worthy of consideration. In this chapter we will examine trends in the timing of first marriage or union for men and women. We define marriage broadly to include all socially recognized unions, including legal marriage as well as any other type of union that is recognized and reported in particular countries. The principal focus is on documenting trends in the age at marriage for the major regions of the developing world; however, the chapter also addresses a few subthemes: the current extent of early marriage, differences between men and women in trends in age at marriage, and the association between age at marriage and sociodemographic characteristics, specifically education and rural-urban residence. To the extent that changing patterns of behavior are revealed, we will try to identify to what such transformations might be attributed and draw on the demographic literature to provide insights. UNDERSTANDING MARRIAGE TIMING A number of scholars have conducted research on marriage timing. We begin with a brief review of the contributions of various social science disciplines to an understanding of age at marriage. Historical Demography Historical demographers have done an admirable job of documenting marriage patterns throughout Europe over the last few hundred years; however, they have fared less well in identifying a particular set of factors that explains trends across cultures. Hajnal (1965) first observed what he called a “European” pattern with late age at marriage and high proportions unmarried. In describing this distinctive pattern that existed from at least as early as the eighteenth century, he hypothesized that an association existed between marriage and household formation, arguing that when marriage involved the establishment of a new household, as it did in much of Western and Northern Europe, resource and skill acquisition were determining factors in the decision to wed. Wrigley and colleagues (1997, p. 122), in
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies their history of English population from the end of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century, supported this view, concluding not only that “the pattern that Hajnal identified was of long standing in England,” but also that the decision to marry hinged on the ability to set up an independent household. While many have noted its “tremendous influence in the historical study of European marriage” (Ehmer, 2002, p. 306), Hajnal’s theory of the links between age at marriage and economic self-sufficiency is not without its critics. Watkins (1986, p. 325), in her investigation of marriage in Europe between 1870 and 1960, reveals the inadequacy of Hajnal’s explanation, at least in understanding change at the level of geographic aggregates. Examination of provincial data from the late nineteenth century reveals that nuptiality patterns were similar in neighboring provinces, but not necessarily within regions of a particular country. She argues that these contiguous regions shared a common culture and language and not necessarily common occupational structures, suggesting that societal conventions with regard to the timing of marriage existed independent of particular economic conditions. Other studies also suggest that the decision about when to marry may be rooted as much in societal norms as in economic realities. Lynch (1991), examining the experience in cities in Northwest Europe, observed that the pattern of late age at marriage and high rates of celibacy that characterized village society also described more urbanized areas in the nineteenth century. Although she presents herself as an adherent of Hajnal, her argument that the European Marriage Pattern prevailed even as Malthusian constraints weakened with the rise of fertility control is not consistent with a theory that connects age at marriage to economic resources. She claims that late age at marriage represents a set of cultural values, albeit values that emanated, in part, from economic realities of times past. Individual country studies also reveal the inadequacy of an explanation linking household structure, the economic environment, and age at marriage. For example, an analysis of data from an agricultural region of north-central Italy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries revealed that women married quite late, on average around 24 to 25, despite the fact that multiple-family households were common and patrilocal residence was the norm. Moreover, marriage age did not decline throughout “a period of dramatic social and economic changes,” when wage labor supplanted share-cropping (Kertzer and Hogan, 1991, p. 34). In Ireland, even as incomes began to rise in the late nineteenth century, celibacy and late age of marriage continued to prevail (Guinnane, 1991). Proto-industrialization, which provided wage-earning opportunities for young men and women, did not always lead to reduced age at marriage, as Gutmann and Leboutte (1984) demonstrate for Eastern Belgium. They argue that land ownership patterns, the speed with which industrial development takes place, and the nature of
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies that industry all play a role in the timing of marriage. Furthermore, case studies from other areas in Europe do not show a strong association between occupational groups and age at marriage (Kertzer and Hogan, 1991). These demographic studies of historical Europe are useful for those investigating marriage in the developing world if only to emphasize that nuptiality trends defy easy explanation; while age at marriage is likely to be sensitive to the economic environment, the roots of particular marriage patterns would appear to lie in the distinctiveness of individual family systems.2 Social Anthropology For social anthropologists, kinship systems—which include marriage rules and residential arrangements—have traditionally been a focal, if not the focal subject of ethnographic inquiry. While much effort has gone into documenting spouse selection patterns, living arrangements after marriage, and inheritance systems, the subject of age at marriage has been incidental to the larger goal of describing the way in which the overall kinship system and marriage rules function to maintain social order. The structural-functionalist approach to kinship dominated cultural anthropology throughout much of the twentieth century. Although this paradigm is now considered overly “static” and even “obsolete” (Das Gupta, 1997, p. 36), many anthropologists are still interested in kinship patterns. However, the focus is no longer on delineating complicated marriage rules. Rather, kinship is explored within its broader political and economic context with a view toward understanding social change. Ahearn’s (2001) ethnographic study of the way in which increased literacy and exposure to Hindi soap operas has led to a shift away from arranged and capture marriages toward love marriages in a Nepalese village is an example of this new type of kinship research. Yet she pays no attention to whether this transformation in the marriage process has had an effect on the timing of marriage. As was true of earlier kinship studies, no discussion of age at marriage is provided. A collaborative study between anthropologists and demographers, also conducted in a Nepalese village, does focus explicitly on age at marriage. In the introduction to their chapter, Dahal, Fricke, and Thornton (1993, p. 305) explain why anthropologists should not ignore marriage timing: 2 We thank George Alter for educating us on recent scholarship in historical demography as well as emphasizing the uniqueness of individual family systems and pointing out the danger in generalizing from Europe to the rest of the world (G. Alter, personal communication, April 23, 2004).
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies If particular marriage forms are evidence of wider strategies of social reproduction … then the timing of marriage should itself be seen as a part of that process. Thus marriage timing is no less the proper study of anthropology than any other element of marriage behavior. At the same time, marriage timing should be seen to have implications beyond the merely demographic. They are critical of even the “most anthropologically informed demographers” who ignore family context in explaining age of marriage, and include only individual factors, such as education, to elucidate behavior change. Indeed, the explanatory variables used in this examination of Nepal set the research apart from conventional survey analyses. In addition to asking the standard demographic questions, information was collected on marriage characteristics of the parental generation, including measures of kin status of parents (cross-cousin or not), the nature of material exchange at their marriage, and the relative land holding of their families. Data were also collected on mothers’ characteristics, including the inheritance at marriage and whether Nepali is spoken as well as the local language, all measures that reflect social status. Family context, namely “access to kin and marriage partner networks, intergenerational control and the prestige of natal groups,” is found to be significant in explaining marriage timing (Dahal, Fricker, and Thornton, 1993, p. 319). Sociology Family sociologists, in contrast to social anthropologists, have not generally considered marriage patterns in developing countries to be within their purview. Goode’s classic volume, World Revolution and Family Patterns, which is one of the standard textbooks of modernization theory, is the exception. Goode emphasizes the “fit” between the conjugal family and modern industrial society with its need for a geographically and socially mobile population. According to Goode, the ideal type of conjugal family excludes relatives from everyday decision making, establishes a new household at the time of marriage, and because the young person selects his or her own partner, is based on mutual attraction between spouses rather than on an alliance between families.3 Writing in 1963, Goode (1963, p. 8) noted that in the West, the age of marriage for both men and women dropped during the twentieth century, leading him to conclude that predicting trends in age at marriage as a function of other secular changes in society is problematic: 3 By conjugal, Goode does not mean nuclear. For him a nuclear family system is one where there is no interaction between relatives.
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies When such a [conjugal] system begins to emerge in a society, the age at marriage is likely to change because the goals of marriage change, but whether it will rise or fall cannot be predicted from the characteristics mentioned so far. In a conjugal system, the youngsters must now be old enough to take care of themselves, i.e., they must be as old as the economic system forces them to be in order to be independent at marriage. Goode does not argue that industrialization and urbanization “caused” a change in family patterns in the West; rather, he observes that the family has had an independent effect on the development of industrialization in the West. He claims that “no one has yet succeeded in stating the determinate relations between family systems and economic or technological systems” (Goode, 1963, p. 22). Although Goode was writing 40 years ago, we would argue that success still eludes us. With the exception of the work of Lesthaeghe, Kaufman, and Meekers (1989) on sub-Saharan Africa, and Fricke, Syed, and Smith (1986), Malhotra (1991, 1997), Malhotra and Tsui (1996), and Yabiku (2003; Yabiku et al., 2002) research on South Asia (see footnote 1), few demographic studies explore the timing and process of marriage in developing countries in any depth. In part this is a function of the limited breadth of the typical demographic survey. In contrast, the Asian Marriage Surveys, which were used by Malhotra (1991, 1997) and Fricke, Syed, and Smith (1986), collected extensive data on the marriage process. However, these surveys have limited utility for analyses of marriage timing because of a restriction to those who are married. Economics Economists have been less concerned than other social scientists with explaining marital behavior in the developing world. To the extent that they have been interested in marriage, the focus has been on modeling assortative mating (Montgomery and Sulak, 1989) and the increase in dowry payments in South Asia (Rao, 1993a, 1993b). Absent Gary Becker’s (1973) seminal article on the theory of marriage, economists have paid much less attention to age at marriage. According to Becker, marriage is yet another manifestation of utility-maximizing behavior; people wed when the utility of being married exceeds that of being single. At the core of his argument is the notion that men and women bring different attributes to marriage and have different roles, such that there is “positive assortative mating of complementary traits” (Boulier and Rosenzweig, 1984, p. 714). As the wage differential between men and women narrows and presumably as women and men begin to substitute for one another, women’s incentive to marry decreases. Since publication of Becker’s theory, few economists
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies have produced empirical analyses of marriage in the developing world. Using data from the early 1970s in the Philippines, Boulier and Rosenzweig (1984) provide confirmation of Becker’s theory of marriage; they demonstrate that while the effect of education on age of marriage is exaggerated in models that treat education as exogenous, additional schooling does lead women to marry later. Brien and Lillard (1994) show that controlling for the effect of delayed marriage on education, that is, for the potential endogeneity of education, later age at marriage among women in Malaysia is explained in large part by increased enrollment and attainment. As Becker would predict, with increased schooling, the opportunity cost of marriage rises for women. However, no explanation is given for the continued significance of ethnicity in models of marriage timing. With the exception of Becker’s work, we have few theories that explicitly address age at marriage, even fewer studies that economists would consider acceptable in addressing the endogeneity problems that arise in studies of the determinants of marriage timing, and still fewer studies that collect the appropriate data to adequately explain when people marry. That said, a considerable literature on the correlates of age at marriage exists, as does speculation about determinants and trends, particularly about reasons for the increase in age of marriage among women. In the next section, we will analyze data on age at marriage from 83 developing countries. We will then return to the demographic literature to help us shed light on the trends we observe. DATA SOURCES Data on the age at first marriage are obtained from two sources: (1) a database compiled by the United Nations (UN) Population Division that draws in part from population censuses, and (2) nationally representative DHS. The UN database provides the percentage of the population married in 5-year age groups for most developing countries (United Nations Population Division, 2000). For this analysis, we consider all countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America with the exception of those identified by the World Bank as “high income” and those with a population of less than 140,0004 (World Bank, 2002).5 Given the chapter’s focus on trends, we have identi- 4 If a country had fewer than 140,000 in population, the UN did not provide data. 5 Income data for all countries but East Timor were obtained from the World Bank’s 2002 World Development Indicators. For East Timor, the income data were obtained from the World Bank website.
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies fied 746 countries of the 1177 that meet our criteria for which recent data, that is, data collected in 1990 or later, are available and for which information exists from two censuses or surveys at least 10 years apart. For analyses based on this database, we excluded countries for which a census or survey was not available for both sexes; moreover, we used the same data set for both men and women even if a more recent census or survey was available for women because we wanted to have fully comparable data for both sexes. There are 1.4 billion young people ages 10 to 24 in these 117 countries; 87 percent or 1.2 billion are resident in the 73 countries for which data on trends in proportions married are available. Coverage varies considerably by region. These data represent approximately 90 percent or more of the population in East and Southern Africa, South Central and Southeast Asia, East Asia, South America and the Caribbean, and Central America, but only 63 percent of the population in the Middle East, 31 percent in West and Middle Africa, and 38 percent in the former Soviet Asia. Note that results for the subregion of East Asia consist entirely of China, as data are unavailable for the two other countries, Mongolia and North Korea. Populous countries for which data are unavailable from the UN database include Afghanistan, Algeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Survey data come from the DHS carried out by Macro International Inc.8 The data on age at marriage are obtained in personal interviews with nationally representative samples of individual respondents of reproductive age and are part of an extensive questionnaire covering a full range of sexual and reproductive behaviors. Surveys of women (typically ages 15 to 49) were available for 51 countries in South and Southeast Asia, North 6 Data are not available for 15- to 19-year-olds for Argentina and data are not available for 20- to 29-year-olds for Bahrain due to nonstandard age groups. However, for other age groups, the data for these countries are included. 7 According to the United Nations (2003), there are a total of 152 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Thirteen of these contain fewer than 140,000 in population, 16 are listed by the World Bank as high income, and 5 have no World Bank income data. Note that updates of country income groupings on the World Bank website (www.worldbank.org/data/countryclass/classgroups.htm) as of September 30, 2002, led the panel to make a few adjustments to these country groupings including shifting South Korea into the high-income group and therefore out of the developing country group. 8 The DHS is limited to the household population. Ordinarily they do not survey persons residing in institutions, which may include military personnel and perhaps even students in boarding schools and university dormitories, although this varies by country. The data are also subject to nonresponse error. As compared to rates for surveys in high-income countries, nonresponse rates in the DHS are low. However, the rate can be assumed to be higher for unmarried young adults, especially young adult males, than for older adults.
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies Africa and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean; surveys of men (ages 15 to 59, in most cases) were available for 32 countries, 29 in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.9 Note that unmarried women were not included in the survey of individual women for a number of surveys in Asia and the Middle East. However, unmarried women are listed in the household survey and information on their age, education, and rural-urban location is obtained for these countries, with some exceptions noted in the relevant tables. Using weights provided as part of the microdata files, we adjust for the missing unmarried women by age, place of residence, and education, so that the denominators for the proportion married correctly include all women in the respective subgroups. The country-specific data are aggregated into averages for subregions (using United Nations geographic groupings10), weighting countries according to their population size. For both sets of data, weighted averages are calculated, where the weights are the country’s percentage of the region’s population or income grouping’s population ages 10 to 24 based on UN estimates in 2000.11 There are a few countries for which DHS data are available but UN data are not. For example, while there is a DHS for Nigeria, the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, the UN does not provide data for the two time periods required for both men and women. Table 5-1 provides a list of the individual countries from each source. Census data, which are the main source for the database compiled by the UN Population Division, are generally reported by the head of the household, not by individual household members themselves. By comparison, the DHS data on marital status and age at marriage are obtained by personal interviews with the individual respondents themselves with the exception of unmarried women in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, as mentioned above. As noted earlier, in this chapter we apply the broad definition of marriage generally used by cross-country comparative studies, that is, marriage is defined to include all of the different forms of socially recognized unions: cohabitation, consensual unions, “free unions,” and marriage that is legiti- 9 As we indicated, the analyses based on UN data only include countries where data for both men and women are available. Given that the vast majority of countries have data for both sexes, this restriction is not at all onerous. However, for analyses based on DHS data, we did not limit ourselves to countries where data were available for both sexes because we would be left with too few countries. 10 The individual country data are available from the authors. 11 Note that the weights are each country’s percentage of the 2000 population ages 10-24 for all countries included in our sample for that region and not for all countries in the region (United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2001).
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies TABLE 5-1 Country Lists by Region United Nations Database on Marriage Country Regiona Census/Survey Year 1 Census/Survey Year 2 Belize Carib/CA 1980 1991 Dominican Republic Carib/CA 1981 1996 El Salvador Carib/CA 1971 1992 Guatemala Carib/CA 1973 1990 Haiti Carib/CA 1989 2000 Mexico Carib/CA 1980 1990 Nicaragua Carib/CA 1971 1998 Panama Carib/CA 1980 1990 Puerto Rico Carib/CA 1980 1990 Trinidad and Tobago Carib/CA 1980 1990 Botswana E/S Africa 1981 1991 Burundi E/S Africa 1979 1990 Comoros E/S Africa 1980 1996 Ethiopia E/S Africa 1984 2000 Kenya E/S Africa 1969 1998 Malawi E/S Africa 1987 2000 Mauritius E/S Africa 1972 1990 Mozambique E/S Africa 1980 1997 Namibia E/S Africa 1960 1991 Rwanda E/S Africa 1978 1996 South Africa E/S Africa 1985 1996 Tanzania E/S Africa 1978 1996 Uganda E/S Africa 1969 1995 Zambia E/S Africa 1980 1999 Zimbabwe E/S Africa 1982 1999 China EA 1987 1999 Bahrain ME 1981 1991 Egypt ME 1986 1996 Jordan ME 1979 1994 Morocco ME 1982 1994 Occup. Palestinian Territory ME 1967 1997 Sudan ME 1983 1993 Tunisia ME 1984 1994 Turkey ME 1980 1990 Argentina SA 1980 1991 Bolivia SA 1988 1998 Brazil SA 1980 1996 Chile SA 1982 1992 Colombia SA 1973 1993 Ecuador SA 1974 1990 Guyana SA 1980 1991 Paraguay SA 1982 1992 Peru SA 1981 1996
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies More fundamentally, a transformation in the nature of the household economy is said to have occurred. 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, p. 5). In countries as diverse as Sri Lanka and Nigeria, researchers have observed that economic considerations apparently factor much more into the decision about the timing of a man’s marriage than they did earlier. In Sri Lanka, with increasing industrialization, a man’s job status, which was not considered important in the past—particularly where subsistence agriculture was the dominant form of economic life—is now said to be critical in determining when he marries (De Silva, 1997). In Nigeria, where a consid- FIGURE 5-5 Association between change in percentage of 20- to 24-year-old men married and change in percentage of population living in urban areas, 1960-2001. NOTE: Bahrain excluded; nonstandard age grouping. SOURCE: United Nations Population Division data, 72 countries, 1960-2001. See Table 5-1 for list of countries.
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies erable decline has taken place in early marriage among men, the oil boom in the 1970s fueled a change in brides’ expectations of what purchases grooms needed to marry (National Research Council, 1993). In Egypt, where housing, furniture, and appliances are considered essential for marriage and “the bulk of financial obligation … 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, p. 97), although it may be the quantity and quality of items that one is expected to acquire that has increased rather than the cost of basic household necessities. A rigorous analysis linking the expense of setting up a household to the timing of marriage in Egypt does not exist. However, the proportion of individuals in the census marriage registration category, katb al-kitaab, where the marriage was registered but the couple had yet to establish a marital residence, increased four-fold between 1986 and 1996, while the annual rate of marriage barely changed, indirect evidence that rising costs have led to a delay in the ceremony (Singerman and Ibrahim, 2003). This piece of evidence does not firmly establish a link between the rise in the age of marriage and the costs of marriage. The question is whether the rising cost of establishing a household in Egypt and elsewhere affects the timing of marriage across all segments of society or whether the poorest members have lower expectations, are less constrained financially, and paradoxically have seen less of a delay in age at marriage. As with women, one also wonders whether some global changes have emerged that are influencing the timing of marriage among men. Increasing exposure to Western media may affect consumer norms and raise expectations such that young men in many societies increasingly feel obligated to postpone marriage until they have acquired the resources that are now expected for the establishment of a household. Given the current size of youth cohorts in the developing world and the difficulty of ensuring adequate employment opportunities for such vast numbers of young people, postponement of marriage among men by several years, possibly until their 30s or beyond may become increasingly common in many societies. CONSEQUENCES OF CHANGING AGE AT MARRIAGE Although we have documented and offered explanations for the trends in age of marriage, we have not examined the impact of changing age at marriage on the lives of young people largely because, while speculation abounds, the number of rigorous studies on this topic is extremely limited. Nonetheless, the subject is worth considering, if only to stimulate more research in this area. While separating selection effects from consequences has proven difficult, the assumption is that marriage during the teen years is deleterious for women: Schooling may be curtailed, autonomy limited—because young
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies brides tend to marry older men—and sexual relations uninformed and perhaps even coercive or dangerous to women’s health (Clark, 2004; Jejeebhoy, 1995; Mensch, Bruce, and Greene, 1998; Singh and Samara, 1996; UNICEF, 2001). Other than increasing the risk of a premarital pregnancy, delaying marriage into the 20s is generally believed to benefit women.27 As for men, although studies are also lacking, it seems reasonable that postponement of marriage, beyond a certain point, may not be considered universally positive, even if rising expectations and not declining economic circumstances are driving the delay. Indeed, a late age of marriage, if it arises from limited resources, may not be viewed as desirable by young men—it may be a source of frustration, particularly where premarital sex is not condoned. Qualitative research would be valuable on the negative psychosocial effects of delaying marriage, particularly in regions, such as the Middle East, where interaction between unmarried men and women is restricted. Age at Marriage and HIV Risk In a discussion of consequences of age at marriage, the HIV epidemic brings some new factors into consideration. Given the over-riding importance of reducing HIV, we focus on examining what is known, as well as, plausible hypotheses, about the association between women’s age at marriage, the age-gap between partners, and HIV risk. Delaying age at marriage for women, if it delays sex, should reduce the age-specific rate of HIV among young women. In 13 of the 24 sub-Saharan countries where the probability of marrying by age 18 has declined in the last 20 years, the overall proportion of women having sex by age 18 also declined significantly (Mensch et al., 2005). Further, there is evidence that unmarried sexually active adolescents have lower rates of HIV than their married counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa (Clark, 2004). Analysis of DHS data indicates that compared to the unmarried, married adolescents have a higher frequency of sex, are less likely to use condoms, and have older sexual partners, namely their husbands, who are more likely to be HIV positive (Clark, 2004). Thus even if later marriage does not lead to a delay in sexual debut, the argument is that the nature of sexual activity among married women puts them at higher risk of HIV than their unmarried counterparts. 27 In societies where women traditionally marry early and where women’s autonomy is severely limited, a delay in age at marriage may have no impact on the lives of young women. Those who marry later may be equally constrained in terms of mobility, household decision making and employment. This observation was made by Nan Astone at a March 2003 meeting of the NRC/IOM panel on Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries.
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies These findings warrant at least four caveats, however. First, the assertion that the level of infection is higher among the married compared to the single is based on prevalence rather than incidence data. Prevalence data obscure the possibility that young married girls may have become infected when single and infected adolescent girls may be more likely to select into early marriage. Second, even if early marriage elevates HIV risk for adolescent girls, in the long run marriage may prove to be more protective than remaining single and sexually active. Data from Rakai, Uganda, indicate that on average across all age groups HIV incidence is higher among the never married than among the currently married and highest among those previously married (Gray et al., 2004). To determine how marital status affects HIV risk it is necessary to conduct epidemiological studies using longitudinal data. Third, the risk of contracting HIV depends not only on one’s sexual partner’s sero-status, but also, if positive, when the partner became infected. A woman may be more likely to contract HIV if she has sex with a newly infected partner because viral loads, which are estimated to be strongly predictive of the risk of transmission (see Quinn et al., 2000; Gray et al., 2001), are high at the time of infection (see Anderson, 1996). Although infectivity is likely to vary systematically by age of the man, we do not have data on the infectivity rate of partners of married and unmarried adolescent girls to determine which group’s partners put them at greater risk of acquiring HIV. Sexually active, never married women are more likely to change partners than currently married women (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1998; Ferry et al., 2001), which raises the risk of encountering an infected partner. Moreover, the male partners of unmarried women are more apt to be single and, in turn, are more likely to have multiple sexual partners than are men in monogamous unions (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2003). However, if those in polygamous unions are included, married men may be more likely to have a greater number of sexual partners than single men, as is observed in Rakai (Gray et al., 2004).28 With the data currently at hand, definitive statements about the effect of marriage delay on HIV risk canot be made; moreover, the association probably varies by social setting. While later marriage delay may lead to later onset, it may also result in higher lifetime rates of HIV infection. An additional concern is women’s HIV status when bearing children. One consequence of delayed marriage may be that women are more likely to be infected during pregnancy, although one study found no evidence to support this speculation (Clark, 2004). 28 This analysis of the consequences of delayed marriage for HIV risk among women also draws on discussions that took place at a November 10, 2004, Population Council workshop on Marriage and HIV/AIDS. For a more detailed discussion of some of these issues see Bongaarts (2005).
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies As is the case for women, the health consequences of delayed marriage are unknown for men. Although marriage does not impose sexual exclusivity on men, in countries where premarital sex is prevalent, a delay in marriage may increase exposure to HIV and other STDs because, as noted above, compared to married men, a greater percentage of the unmarried have multiple sexual partners (see Appendix Table 3, Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2003). Alternatively, in countries where postpartum abstinence taboos are still present and men marry early, they may be more likely to engage in intercourse with other partners including commercial sex workers during the post-partum period. Clearly more research is needed on the linkages between changing age at marriage, sexual behavior, condom use, and HIV risk among both men and women. CONCLUSIONS During the last 30 years, for most developing country regions, substantial declines have occurred in the proportion of young men and women married; the clear exceptions are South America for men and women, and, for men only, South and Southeast Asia. Given differentials in male and female marriage ages by years of schooling and residence, we assessed whether the decline in the percentage of young people married is related to increases in educational attainment and urbanization. Expansion of schooling for women has had some impact, but there is still a considerable fraction of the increase not explained by changes in education. We asserted that a proper investigation of the association between education and age at marriage would look beyond such factors as years of schooling to what goes on within the school itself, as well as changes in the value of education, which is likely to vary across settings. In suggesting other factors that might account for some of the increase in age of marriage among women, we reviewed a considerable number of demographic studies. Contributory factors examined in the literature and considered here include the decline in arranged marriages, the deficit of available older men with increasing cohort size and the concomitant rise in the cost of dowries in South Asia, changes in the legal age of marriage, and a transformation in global norms about the desirability of early marriage of women. We noted that there is a much smaller literature on age of marriage of men. While increasing educational attainment of men is also believed to contribute to a delay, we found no evidence of this in sub-Saharan Africa. We suggested that increasing costs of establishing a household may lead men to postpone marriage. This data analysis and review of the literature revealed that there is much that we do not know about changes in the timing of marriage for men and women and the consequences of these changes for health and other out-
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The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries: Selected Studies comes. To better understand the dynamics of union formation, demographic surveys need to collect information on the social, cultural, and economic factors that affect life decisions among young people, including the contextual factors that reflect the opportunity structures available. Greater attention to the shift in the marriage process including the apparent decline in arranged marriages and the increase in marriages based on mutual attraction would also be useful as both have implications for partner communication and decision-making processes regarding family building. In so doing a more nuanced understanding of marriage, one of the key transitions in the pathway from adolescence to adulthood, can be developed. REFERENCES Abbasi, M.J., Mehryar, A., Jones, G., and McDonald, P. (2002). Revolution, war, and modernization: Population policy and fertility change in Iran. Journal of Population Research, 19(1), 25-46. Ahearn, L.M. (2001). Invitations to love: Literacy, love letters, and social change in Nepal. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Alan Guttmacher Institute. (1998). Into a new world: Young women’s sexual and reproductive lives. New York: Author. Alan Guttmacher Institute. (2003). In their own right: Addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of men worldwide. New York: Author Amin, S. (2000). Gender, governance, and the making of a new population policy in Bangladesh. Paper presented at panel discussion on Globalization and Some Aspects of Recent Social Changes in Rural Bangladesh at the annual meeting of the American Rural Sociological Society, August 14, Washington, DC. Amin, S., and Cain, M. (1997). The rise of dowry in Bangladesh. In G.W. Jones, R.M. Douglas, J.C. Caldwell, and R.M. D’Souza (Eds.), The continuing demographic transition (pp. 290-306). Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. Amin, S., Mahmud, S., and Huq, L. (2002). Marriage. In Baseline survey report on rural adolescents in Bangladesh: Kishori Abhijan Project. Dhaka, Bangladesh: UNICEF and Department of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. Anderson, R.M. (1996). The spread of HIV and sexual mixing patterns. In J. Mann and D. Tarantola (Eds.), AIDS in the world (vol. II, pp. 71-86). New York: Oxford University Press. Anderson, S. (2003). Why dowry payments declined with modernization in Europe but are rising in India. Journal of Political Economy, 111(2), 269-310. Assaad, R., and Zouari, S. (2002). The timing of marriage, fertility, and female labor force participation in urban Morocco. Paper presented at the ERF 9th Annual Conference, October 26-28, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Becker, G. (1973). A theory of marriage. In T.W. Schultz (Ed.), Economics of the family: Marriage, children, and human capital (pp. 299-344). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Bhat, P.N.M., and Halli, S.S. (1999). Demography of brideprice and dowry: Causes and consequences of the Indian marriage squeeze. Population Studies, 53(2), 129-148. Billig, M.S. (1992). The marriage squeeze and the rise of groomprice in India’s Kerala State. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 23(2), 197-216.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: