Poverty and Premarital Sex in Comparative Perspectives

Yanyi K Djamba, Auburn University
Sitawa R Kimuna, East Carolina University

This paper revisits the debate on the association between poverty and the transition to premarital sexual activity among female adolescents in Africa. The analysis is based on females aged 15-19 years interviewed during the Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in Kenya, Mali, and Zambia in 2001-2003. We found that 35 percent of respondents in Kenya, 40 percent in Mali and 50 percent in Zambia have had premarital sexual experience. However, the association between poverty and the initiation of premarital sexual intercourse was only significant in Zambia, not in Mali or Kenya. This differential pattern did not change even when current marital status and other control variables were included in the regression equations. Such findings show that female adolescents do not follow the same pathways to sexual activity. Therefore, we caution against generalizing the association between poverty and sexual behavior. The poorest is not always the most sexually permissive.

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Presented in Session 74: Gender Issues: Cross-National Comparisons