Does Marriage Influence Individual Behavior in Urban Africa? Evidence from a High HIV Area in Kenya

Nancy Luke, Harvard University
Kaivan Munshi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The marriage institution, which plays an important role in regulating sexual activity in most societies, traditionally placed few restrictions on extra-marital relationships in sub-Saharan Africa. If this pattern continues today, it may help explain the relatively high levels of HIV/AIDS in this region. We test the link between marriage and sexual activity on a sample of migrants in Kisumu, Kenya. A preliminary regression shows that married men have significantly fewer non-marital partners than single men, but this regression does not account for selective entry into marriage. Indeed, the marriage effects disappear when we instrument for marriage. In contrast, marriage has a strong influence on employment, income, and remittances, consistent with the view that marriage facilitates reciprocal exchange and improves labor market outcomes. Sexual activity appears to lie outside the range of influence of the marriage institution due to historical circumstance, not because the institution per se is ineffective.

Presented in Session 48: Men's Health Knowledge, Risks, and Behavior across the Life Cycle