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Has Child Marriage Declined in sub-Saharan Africa? An Analysis of Trends in 31 Countries
Authors: Alissa Koski, Shelley Clark, and Arijit Nandi
Source: Population and Development Review, 43(1): 7-29; DOI:
Topic(s): Child marriage
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: MAR 2017
Abstract: Child marriage has received increasing attention as a threat to development and public health. Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest levels of child marriage in the world. Previous studies that measured change in the prevalence of child marriage relied on methods that may be affected by recall and survival bias. We used a different measurement approach that minimizes these biases to estimate trends in the marriage of girls before ages 15 and 18 years in 31 sub-Saharan African countries. We found that marriage before age 18 has declined over time but that the decline has been concentrated among older adolescents. The proportion of girls who marry before their 15th birthday has remained unchanged for twenty years throughout much of the region and has increased in a few countries, suggesting resistance to ending child marriage among the youngest and most vulnerable girls.