A Waning Institution? Prevalence, Quality, and Nature of Polygynous Marriages in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sophia Chae , Independent Consultant
Victor Agadjanian, University of California, Los Angeles

Similar to many parts of the developing world, Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced profound changes in the context and nature of marriage. Although polygyny has been widespread across the subcontinent, there is evidence that its prevalence may be on the decline. Using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys, we study trends in the prevalence of polygyny in 24 countries. We examine these trends by sex, sociodemographic characteristics, and marriage characteristics. We also assess whether changes are occurring in the quality of men and women entering these unions and investigate whether the nature of this practice is changing. Preliminary results indicate that the prevalence of polygyny is indeed declining but also that the rate of this decline varies across countries. The completed paper will reflect on the implications of findings for the institution of marriage and couples’ and women’s well-being in the subcontinent.

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 Presented in Session 66. Union Formation