Changing Gender Gaps in the Timing of Partnership Formation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ewa Batyra , Center for Demographic Studies
Hans-Peter Kohler, University of Pennsylvania
Frank Furstenberg, University of Pennsylvania

Due to scarcity of research about the demographic behavior of men in Sub-Saharan Africa, the evolution of gender differences in the patterns of family formation remains undocumented. We analyze the first stage of the family building process - partnership formation - focusing on the age of first union, the age of sexual initiation and the context in which first sexual intercourse occurs (marital or non-marital). Basing on studies suggesting that modernization and developmental processes are likely to make gender relations more egalitarian, we examine whether differences between women and men in the timing of partnership formation decreased in Sub-Saharan Africa. We analyze data for 27 countries from 100 Demographic and Health Surveys which, apart from women’s questionnaires, included men’s questionnaires, previously unexploited for the study of the timing of partnership formation in the region. Using survival analysis, we find that gender gaps in the age at first union and probability of first sex occurring outside of union diminished, in particular in countries where they were largest initially. These processes were driven mainly by the emerging “catching up” of women with men when it comes to their partnership formation behavior. Preliminary analyses of the relationship between these changes and changing gender gaps in schooling support the hypothesis that developmental processes are likely to play a role in shaping differences between men and women in family building behavior. These results enhance the understanding of the relationship between gender inequalities and development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course