MPIDR Working Paper

Cohort changes and drivers of education-specific union formation patterns in sub-Saharan Africa

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-022, 29 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (November 2021)
Open Access

Abstract

Despite education expansion, age at first marriage stalled in some sub-Saharan African (SSA) regions, a pattern whose underlying drivers remain poorly understood. We argue that a deeper investigation of birth cohort changes in education-specific ages at first marriage and how they are aligned with changes in girls’ school participation can illuminate this puzzle. Using Demographic Health Survey data from 34 SSA-countries, survival analyses and decomposition techniques, we examine education-specific marital behavior and change therein for the cohorts born between 1940 and 1999. Three key findings come to the fore. First, median age among all education groups stalled or reversed over some birth cohorts in all SSA regions. Second, these education-specific stalls or reversals correspond to different stages of education expansion across SSA regions. For some regions, these occurred long before the proportion of women attaining some schooling had increased substantially. Third, behavioral rather than education group composition changes explain the largest component of cohort differences in marriage rates in these education group. We conclude that increases in secondary education would be the most likely pathway to further delays in age at first marriage in West, Central and East Africa.

Keywords: Africa, age at marriage, cohort analysis, education of women
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.