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For Better, For Worse? Women’s Marriages Following Premarital Births in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sun, August 11, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Sheraton New York, Floor: Lower Level, Union Square

Abstract

Premarital fertility is common in many sub-Saharan African countries. Population health and education researchers have carefully documented its immediate consequences, but we know less about its possible longer-term implications for women’s lives, including their subsequent marriages. In most sub-Saharan African countries, women who have premarital births remain single for several years before eventually marrying at older ages than other women, raising questions about the types of men they ultimately marry and the quality of the unions they form. Analyses of Demographic and Health Survey data for 25 sub-Saharan African countries show that, in many countries, women who have premarital births are more likely to marry minimally educated, substantially older, polygynous husbands, and to be in physically violent, and ultimately unstable, unions. Single mothers’ susceptibility to entering disadvantageous marriages illustrates the indelible mark premarital fertility can leave on African women’s lives.

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