The Past and Future of Partner Preferences: Partner Homogamy in a Sub-Saharan Setting

Xavier Salvador , Cornell University
Sarah Giroux, Cornell University

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen massive educational expansions, with enrollments rising from 25% in the 1960s to 65% by 2010. This shift has important implications for union formations. The impact of education is extremely important, as increasing social similarity between partners can improve equality within unions, but can also foster inequality in the distribution of education or income. As West Africa is already marked by drastic inequality, greater educational homogamy may signal future increases in economic disparities. Using two datasets, we examine patterns of marital homogamy in Cameroon, retrospectively and prospectively. We use Demographic Health Survey data to estimate changes in assortative marriage longitudinally, and use decomposition to examine how shifts have driven changes in the educational and rural/urban composition of the population. We then draw upon a 2018 dataset of Cameroon students that asks about their marriage and partner preferences. Our findings suggest increases in marital homogamy by education.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality