Divorce in Sub-Saharan Africa: Are Unions Becoming More Stable?

Shelley Clark, McGill University
Sarah R. Brauner-Otto, McGill University

Divorce is one of the main drivers of family instability in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet surprisingly little is known about divorce in this region, primarily because of limited data. Using data from 98 Demographic and Health Surveys and novel estimation techniques, we 1) provide the first systematic estimates of divorce across 33 countries; 2) assess trends in divorce in 17 countries; and 3) investigate the key country-level correlates of divorce across and within countries. Our estimates show that divorce is common in most countries. However, we find no evidence that divorce is increasing. Instead, divorce has been either stable or declining in recent decades. Factors associated with industrialization have countervailing effects on divorce. Urbanization and female employment are associated with higher levels of divorce, while age at first marriage and female education correspond to lower rates. These findings have important implications for current and future family dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Presented in Session 73: Family Instability in an International Perspective