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Interethnic and interfaith marriages in sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract : This paper documents interethnic and interfaith marriage patterns to better understand which identity-related cleavages matter in sub-Saharan Africa. Using Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) spanning 15 countries, I build a representative sample of women born between 1955 and 1989. Extrapolating to the population of these countries, I find that 20.4% of marriages are interethnic and 9.7% are interfaith, indicating that ethnic and religious differences are not always barriers. Accounting for diversity levels, both shares are actually similar. Regarding the pooled sample of these 15 countries, the share of interethnic marriages increased, and there is no country where interethnic marriages became less frequent. The share of interfaith marriages decreased in the pooled sample. Only in Cameroon did interfaith marriages become more frequent. The share of Muslim-Christian marriages remained stable in the pooled sample. The increase in the share of interethnic marriages can only partly be explained by increases in urbanization and education levels, suggesting that changes in preferences and in social norms may also be at play. The decrease in the share of interfaith marriages is due to decreasing levels of religious diversity: traditional religions were replaced by Islam and Christianity. These results show that some ethnic boundaries became more porous whereas religious boundaries did not. However, religious boundaries shifted as a result of changes in the religious landscape.
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Contributor : Caroline Bauer <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 6:30:34 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 11:09:09 AM

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Juliette Crespin-Boucaud. Interethnic and interfaith marriages in sub-Saharan Africa. World Development, Elsevier, 2020, 125, ⟨10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104668⟩. ⟨halshs-02973047⟩



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