What Role Does Marriage Play in Urban Africa? Evidence from a High HIV Area in Kenya

61 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2003

See all articles by Nancy Luke

Nancy Luke

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Kaivan D. Munshi

Brown University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 2003

Abstract

The marriage institution, which plays an important role in regulating sexual activity in most societies, traditionally placed few restrictions on male extra-marital relationships in sub-Saharan Africa. If this traditional pattern continues to remain in place today, then it may help explain the relatively high levels of HIV/AIDS in that region of the world. We test the link between marriage and sexual activity on a sample of migrants in the town of Kisumu, Western Kenya, which reported HIV prevalence of 26 percent in 1997. A preliminary regression shows that married men have significantly fewer non-marital partners than single men, but this regression does not account for selective entry into marriage. Indeed, the marriage effect disappears completely when we instrument for marriage. In contrast, marriage has a strong influence on employment, income, and remittances among the migrants (after instrumenting), consistent with the view that marriage improves labor market outcomes and facilitates reciprocal exchange in this network-based economy. Sexual activity appears to lie outside the range of influence of the marriage institution due to historical circumstance, not because the institution per se is ineffective.

Keywords: Marriage, Labor Markets, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Activity, Social Institutions, Africa

JEL Classification: D1, I1, J1, J2, O1

Suggested Citation

Luke, Nancy and Munshi, Kaivan D., What Role Does Marriage Play in Urban Africa? Evidence from a High HIV Area in Kenya (June 2003). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 03-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=414502 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.414502

Nancy Luke

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

9 Bow Street
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-495-3639 (Phone)
617-495-5418 (Fax)

Kaivan D. Munshi (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Box B
Providence, RI 02912
United States
401-863-9331 (Phone)
401-863-1970 (Fax)

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