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Early Marriage, Women Empowerment and Child Mortality: Married Too Young To Be a «Good Mother»?

  • Nathalie Guilbert


    (PSL, Université Paris-Dauphine, IRD,LEDa, UMR DIAL)

(english) This paper uses data from recent Senegalese Demographic and Health Surveys to explore the link between female empowerment and child mortality via early marriage, defined as marriage before age 16. There exist three channels through which early marriage reduces a mother's ability to take good care of her children: the harmful physical consequences of early sex and pregnancy; a disrupted education; and reduced autonomy and bargaining power. Controlling for the first two of these allows us to isolate the empowerment effect of early marriage. We estimate that it increases the probability that the mother experience at least one son death by 4.43%, and raises the number of dead sons per mother by 0.074. Particular attention is paid to discuss and address endogeneity issues. We also further investigate the heterogeneity of impact by current age and marriage duration. Findings suggest that we effectively identify the empowerment channel. _________________________________ (français) Cet article utilise les données des Enquêtes Démographiques et de Santé collectées en 2005 et en 2010 au Sénégal pour explorer le lien entre autonomisation des femmes et mortalité infantile, via la pratique du mariage précoce. Le mariage précoce est défini comme tout mariage ayant lieu avant que la jeune fille ait atteint 16 ans. Cette pratique est encore très répandue au Sénégal où 34,4% des femmes mariées sont concernées. Il existe trois canaux via lesquels le mariage précoce réduit l’aptitude des femmes à prendre bien soin de leurs enfants. Le premier est lié aux conséquences physiques désastreuses des rapports sexuels et grossesses précoces. Le deuxième découle du manque d’éducation formelle et informelle reçue par ces jeunes femmes pour lesquelles toute opportunité d’aller à l’école est interrompue précocement par le mariage. Le troisième ressort de l’absence de pouvoir de négociation des femmes au sein de leur ménage et de leur absence d’autonomie. En contrôlant pour les deux premiers canaux, nous sommes en mesure d’isoler l’impact spécifique du canal d’autonomisation des femmes sur la mortalité infantile. On estime alors que cette absence de pouvoir de négociation des femmes, exacerbée dans le cas des mariages précoces, accroît la probabilité d’une femme de voir un de ses fils décédés avant l’âge de 5 ans de 4,43% et leur nombre de 0,074. L’impact sur la mortalité des filles est non significatif. Une attention particulière a été portée à discuter et résoudre les problèmes d’endogénéité auxquels nous faisons face dans cette étude. Nous avons aussi creusé l’hétérogénéité de l’impact en fonction de l’âge actuel de la femme et du nombre d’années passées dans l’union, ceci afin de confirmer que l’on identifie bien le canal d’autonomisation des femmes. En effet, avec le temps, la connaissance du ménage d’accueil et un âge plus élevé qui confère un certain statut social, il est probable que l’effet « pouvoir de négociation » du mariage précoce s’amenuise. C’est effectivement ce que l’on observe.

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Paper provided by DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation) in its series Working Papers with number DT/2013/05.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dia:wpaper:dt201305
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  1. Thomas, D., 1989. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Papers 586, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  2. Yuyu Chen & Hongbin Li, 2006. "Mother's Education and Child Health: Is There a Nurturing Effect?," Discussion Papers 00021, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  3. Kirdar, Murat G. & Dayioglu-Tayfur, Meltem & Koc, Ismet, 2011. "The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Marriage and Births in Turkey," IZA Discussion Papers 5887, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Diane Dancer, Anu Rammohan, 2009. "Maternal autonomy and child nutrition: Evidence from rural Nepal," Indian Growth and Development Review, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 2(1), pages 18-38, April.
  5. Linnemayr, Sebastian & Alderman, Harold & Ka, Abdoulaye, 2008. "Determinants of malnutrition in Senegal: Individual, household, community variables, and their interaction," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 252-263, July.
  6. Smith, Lisa C. & Ramakrishnan, Usha & Ndiaye, Aida & Haddad, Lawrence James & Martorell, Reynaldo, 2003. "The importance of women's status for child nutrition in developing countries:," Research reports 131, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  7. Maitra, Pushkar, 2004. "Parental bargaining, health inputs and child mortality in India," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 259-291, March.
  8. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Mukesh Eswaran, 2002. "The empowerment of women, fertility, and child mortality: Towards a theoretical analysis," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 433-454.
  10. Ian M. Timæus & Tom A. Moultrie, 2008. "On Postponement and Birth Intervals," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(3), pages 483-510.
  11. Sarah Carmichael, 2011. "Marriage and Power: Age at first marriage and spousal age gap in Lesser Developed Countries," Working Papers 0015, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
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