The Economics of Female Genital Cutting
36 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2007 Last revised: 2 Jul 2008
Date Written: December 2007
The practice of female genital cutting (FGC) has a long history in Africa and it is thought that over 130 million females alive today have undergone the practice. In this paper we argue that FGC is a pre-marital investment. We analyze data from Burkina Faso and find that FGC is correlated with better marital outcomes. Circumcised women marry earlier, live in wealthier households and are more likely to be the first wife in a polygamous household. We also find evidence that rates have been declining steadily since anti-FGC campaigns commenced in 1985. We develop a theoretical model and show that society might get trapped into an inefficiently high FGC equilibrium due to the rat-race nature of the marriage market. We argue that in this case regulation results in a (potential) Pareto improvement, and that even weak regulation can be effective in eradicating FGC.
Keywords: Female Genital Cutting, Marriage, Premarital Investment
JEL Classification: O12, O55, J12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation