Discussion Papers

No.733 Female Genital Cutting and Long-term Adjustment of Marriage Markets: Evidence from West Africa

by Yuya Kudo

December 2018


As female genital cutting (FGC) is conceivably required for women's proper marriage in Africa, its abandonment may have ambiguous impacts on married women's welfare. This study explores whether and how the abandonment of FGC is associated with women's marriage in the long term. It proposes a unique, externally applicable identification strategy and provides evidence consistent with the following view: Burkina Faso's political efforts at discouraging FGC increased the cost of FGC, as perceived by those who reside in the borderlands of its neighboring countries owing to cross-border knowledge spillovers, while reducing the area's cutting rate. However, this external policy shock had no distinct adverse influence on a range of young women's marital and health outcomes in these borderlands. These findings are not inconsistent with a game-theoretic model developed to formalize the well-known theory of marriage convention. In the long term, women's welfare may not markedly decline from a mating perspective, concomitantly along with the decline in FGC.

Keywords:Coordination failure, female circumcision, female empowerment, mating, social institution, social norm

JEL classification:I12, J12, J16, J18, Z13

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