The Role of Employment in Enabling and Constraining Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa

Type Working Paper
Title The Role of Employment in Enabling and Constraining Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL & Krafft Employment and​Marriage in MENA PAA Long Abstract.pdf
As youth transition to adulthood, different life course transitions are dependent upon each other.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the transition into marriage and family formation
is contingent upon the transition of youth into the labor market, particularly for men (Assaad,
Binzel, & Gadallah, 2010; Assaad & Krafft, 2014a). Concerns about youth “waithood” link poor
employment prospects to delays in marriage (Dhillon, Dyer, & Yousef, 2009). This paper will
examine the role of employment in the transition to marriage, both by comparing a number of
countries (Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia) and by examining multiple dimensions of the employment
transition, beyond just the time it takes to transition to employment.
For men, work is necessary both to generate the savings required for marriage and to
demonstrate one’s economic value to potential spouses and their families (Hoodfar, 1997;
Singerman & Ibrahim, 2003; Singerman, 2007). For women, work may be a key strategy for
generating the savings needed to cover the bride’s side marriage costs (Amin & Al-Bassusi,
2004; Sieverding, 2012). Working (temporarily) prior to marriage may particularly assist women
whose families would otherwise struggle to accumulate the resources necessary for marriage. We
will clearly distinguish between the different patterns youth experience by gender. Other
elements that may affect the transitions to work and marriage will also be incorporated, such as
education, place of residence, and socio-economic status.
This paper will draw on several key strains of theoretical literature. First, the global and regional
life course transitions literature (Amer, 2014, 2015; Assaad & Krafft, 2014b; Gebel & Heyne,
2014; Lloyd, 2005; Mortimer & Shanahan, 2003) will provide an important theoretical
framework for understanding individuals’ transitions into adult roles. Secondly, we will draw on
the economics of marriage literature, both globally and in MENA (Adachi, 2003; Assaad &
Krafft, 2014c, 2014d; Becker, 1973, 1974; Bergstrom & Bagnoli, 1993; Hoodfar, 1997; Smith,
2006), to understand the underpinnings of marriage market behavior, including features such as
utility maximization, uncertainty and information problems, and strategic and game theoretic
behaviors. In maximizing their lifetime utility, individuals face a number of constrained strategic
choices in the labor and marriage markets.

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