Marriage and Power: Age at first marriage and spousal age gap in Lesser Developed Countries

Carmichael, S.

This paper examines age at first marriage for women and spousal age gap as an indicator for female agency from 1950 until 2005. Using a dataset of 77 LDCs this paper seeks to explore which variables determine differences at a country level in marriage patterns. We look at the influence of urbanisation, education, percentage population of Muslim faith, and family type. We find that education is key in determining at what age women marry, having as would be expected a positive effect on age at first marriage and depressing spousal age gap. Urbanisation is significant, with a positive effect on age and negative on spousal age gap, although the effect is not very large. The percentage Muslim variable depresses female age at first marriage and increases spousal age gap but only when family type is not controlled for. The initially strong negative effect of percentage population Muslim over the period under consideration on age of first marriage has decreased, which raises some interesting questions about the role of Islam in female empowerment