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Educational Assortative Mating in Sub-Saharan Africa: Compositional Changes and Implications for Household Wealth Inequality
Authors: Luca Maria Pesando
Source: Demography, DOI:
Topic(s): Education
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: FEB 2021
Abstract: Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is undergoing rapid transformations in the realm of union formation in tandem with significant educational expansion and rising labor force participation rates. Concurrently, the region remains the least developed and most unequal along multiple dimensions of human and social development. In spite of this unique scenario, never has the social stratification literature examined patterns and implications of educational assortative mating for inequality in SSA. Using 126 Demographic and Health Surveys from 39 SSA countries between 1986 and 2016, this study is the first to document changing patterns of educational assortative mating by marriage cohort, subregion, and household location of residence and relate them to prevailing sociological theories on mating and development. Results show that net of shifts in educational distributions, mating has increased over marriage cohorts in all subregions except for Southern Africa, with increases driven mostly by rural areas. Trends in rural areas align with the status attainment hypothesis, whereas trends in urban areas are consistent with the inverted U-curve framework and the increasing applicability of the general openness hypothesis. The inequality analysis conducted through a combination of variance decomposition and counterfactual approaches reveals that mating accounts for a nonnegligible share (3% to 12%) of the cohort-specific inequality in household wealth, yet changes in mating over time hardly move time trends in wealth inequality, which is in line with findings from high-income societies.