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Study finds link between marriage age and long-term economic empowerment for women in Egypt

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A study of married women in Egypt found a significant positive correlation between delaying marriage until adulthood and women’s long-term economic empowerment. 

The research was led by Kathryn M. Yount, PhD, Asa Griggs Candler Chair of Global Health at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, and published in the journal World Development.

Yount and her team performed an in-depth analysis of data from 4,129 married women ages 15-43, polled in the 1998-2012 Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey, to see whether a woman's first marriage in adulthood was related to her long-term post-marital economic empowerment, at home and in the marketplace. Yuk Fai Cheong, PhD, in the Department of Psychology at Emory College, and AliceAnn Crandall, PhD, at Brigham Young University, were collaborators. 

Compared to child brides, women who first married at age 18 or older had greater tendencies to be engaged in market work and to exercise family economic agency in 2012.

"There's clearly something about delaying marriage that enables women to better negotiate economic decisions in their families and to engage in market work in the long term," says Yount. "Since that relationship is so strong, we're hypothesizing that a later age at marriage could lead to enhanced self-esteem, self-confidence and life experience." 

This study is one of the first of its kind to look longitudinally at child marriage among women and their long-term economic empowerment, taking into account women’s premarital resources and other changes across their lives.

"Many health implications of child marriage are known; however, the long-term implications for women's economic empowerment have not been previously understood. This study demonstrates a significant relationship between delaying marriage until adulthood and women's long-term economic empowerment," says Yount.

Child marriage continues to be prevalent in settings around the world, and the United Nations sustainable development goals have identified child marriage as a harmful practice that should be changed. Adds Yount, "The benefits of delaying marriage accrue not only to women, but to societies as a whole, through more inclusive growth."

A research grant (1 R03 HD076368-01/02) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development supported the research.

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