Volume 35 - Article 11 | Pages 283–314
By Rania Salem
Background: In Egypt, the ‘social problem’ of delayed marriage is typically attributed to the difficult labour market conditions and high marriage costs faced by young people, particularly men. However, emerging evidence indicates that Egyptian women’s employment experiences may also influence marriage timing.
Objective: This paper investigates gender differences in the determinants of marriage timing, including employment history, job characteristics, education, and urban residence. It tests a number of hypotheses based on existing claims in the literature on marriage timing.
Methods: Data from two waves of the nationally representative Egypt Labour Market Panel Survey are used to carry out proportional hazard analyses. Characteristics of never-married respondents at wave one in 1998 are used to predict the risk of marriage by wave two in 2006.
Results: The results indicate that, to some extent, never-married men who have favourable labour market experiences marry earlier. The same experiences bear no association with women’s marriage timing. For men, being employed and having a public sector job are important economic prerequisites for marriage.
Conclusions: Evidence indicates that Egyptian men with favourable labour market experiences attract a spouse and establish an independent household faster than others. The male breadwinner ideal is therefore a powerful force in dictating who marries when in Egypt today. I also contend that previous studies may have overstated the delaying effects of education and urban residence on marriage, particularly for women. Finally, I offer four contextual factors that must be taken into account when predicting whether existing theories will hold in a given setting.
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