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Marriage as Women's Old Age Insurance: Evidence from Migration and Land Inheritance Practices in Rural Tanzania

Discussion Papers


September 2012


In a traditional system of exogamous and patrilocal marriage prevalent in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, when she marries, a rural woman typically leaves her kin to reside with her husband living outside her natal village. Since a village that allows a widow to inherit her late husband's land can provide her with old age security, single females living outside the village are more likely to marry into the village. Using a natural experimental setting, provided by the longitudinal household panel data drawn from rural Tanzania for the period from 1991 to 2004, during which several villages that initially banned a widow's land inheritance removed this discrimination, this study provides evidence in support of this view, whereby altering a customary land inheritance rules in a village in favor of widows increased the probability of males marrying in that village. This finding suggests that providing rural women with old age protection (e.g., insurance, livelihood protection) has remarkable spatial and temporal welfare effects by influencing their decision to marry.

Keywords: Demography, Gender empowerment, Land ownership, Social custom, Social security, Widowhood
JEL classification: J12, J14, K11, Q15, R23

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