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Hence for most women there is likely to be a distinct gap between school leaving and the earliest ages at which marriage might occur. Figure shows, for seven countries for which data are available, that a sizeable lag exists between school leaving and marriage not only among young men but also among young women. For example, in Kenya for girls, there is approximately a three-year gap between the age at which 50 percent are out of school and 50 percent are married.


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In Iran there is a five-year gap, and in China over a six-year gap. Not only is the link between the transition out of school and into marriage not particularly close for most countries, but also an examination of DHS data indicates that there is not as tight an association between trends in education and age of marriage as one might expect given the emphasis in the literature on the dominant role of educational change as a cause of nuptiality change.

Indeed, the region with the largest increase in educational attainment among young people—South-central and Southeastern Asia—is not the region with the largest decline in early marriage.

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Moreover, while years of schooling have increased in Latin America in the last few decades, almost no change has occurred in age at marriage. Furthermore, a regression analysis of the amount of intercohort change in early marriage that might be expected to follow from the intercohort change in educational attainment in 39 DHS countries reveals that, in 15 countries, the expected change exceeds the observed change.

That is, the magnitude of the decline in early marriage between cohorts is less than would be expected given the increase in schooling see Mensch, Singh, and Casterline, , for a detailed description of the methodology and findings. The pattern in the majority of countries, however, is that the percentage marrying at early ages declined from the older to the younger cohort, and this observed decline exceeds the expected decline. The regional differences are considerable. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the expected decline in early marriage following from increased schooling far exceeds the actual decline.

In many of these countries, of course, the probability of early marriage has not changed. Perhaps there is a threshold beyond which increased schooling is not associated with a change in age of marriage. By contrast to Latin America, for about two-thirds of sub-Saharan African countries, half or more of the decline in early marriage can be linked to increased schooling.

In sum, the rise in schooling hardly appears to be the entire story, although in sub-Saharan Africa a substantial fraction of the reduction in early marriage is associated with the expansion in education. Not only is increased schooling widely believed to contribute to the delay in marriage among young women, but also access to wage employment is frequently cited in discussions of rising age at marriage Mathur, Greene, and Malhotra, It seems logical that there are greater opportunity costs associated with marriage for young women who are in the paid labor force.

Logit regressions were estimated for each cohort. Then the coefficients from one cohort were applied to the other cohort to calculate a predicted logit of early marriage for each woman, which was then transformed into a predicted probability. The mean of these probabilities is the expected proportion marrying early, and the expected proportion minus the observed is the expected change in early marriage due to schooling change. This analysis was conducted only in the 39 countries in which the DHS interviewed all women, not just ever-married women.

This exclusion effectively eliminates South-central and South-eastern Asia and the Middle East from this analysis.

In Bangladesh, for example, where purdah holds sway and cash employment outside the home has been extremely limited for women, adolescent girls who migrate from rural areas to work in the garment industry marry significantly later than their peers from the sending communities who have not had such opportunities Box While those who migrate are likely to be selective for certain characteristics predisposing them to later marriage, the differences in marriage rates are so great—31 percent of year-old garment workers who were not married before beginning work married by age 18 compared with 71 percent of the same age group in the sending villages—that it suggests that the experience of work has been transformative for some Amin et al.

While those who had jobs in the modern sector had the latest age at marriage, even those who worked in traditional occupations married later than those who did no work at all, evidence that it is not only longer exposure to the possibility of work that produces the association between labor force participation and age at marriage but also that women who work postpone marriage United Nations, The argument is that if the positive association between work and age at marriage were simply an artifact of the lengthier exposure to the possibility of employment among those who delayed marriage, then one would not expect a gradient in age of marriage by type of occupation United Nations, Evidence from Bangladesh.

By , the number of factories operating in Bangladesh had grown from in to 2, factories, employing approximately 1. The majority migrate from rural areas to work in the factories and are young and unmarried. Traditional Bangladeshi society is characterized by very early marriage and childbearing Amin et al. In their interviews with young female factory workers, Amin et al. Data from the study indicate that factory work appears to reduce the incidence of marriage for the young women surveyed. Of those women who were unmarried when they started factory work, only 31 percent of those ages , and 29 percent of those age , were married by the age of The rates of early marriage for factory workers are much lower compared to their nonworking counterparts: the percentage of nonworkers from sending villages married by age 18 was 71 percent among year-olds and 82 percent among year-olds.

Transitions and Social Change

For nonworkers from comparable nonsending villages, these percentages were 84 and 91, respectively. Factory work imparts adult skills, such as how to manage income, save money, and budget for expenses, even if young women may not have complete control over their earnings.

It exposes adolescent girls to new information, social networks, and lifestyles and raises the opportunity costs of their time. According to Amin et al. In the United States there is evidence from analysis of recent census data that better labor market conditions for young women reduce marriage rates Blau, Kahn, and Waldfogel, Although it seems plausible that the increasing labor force participation of women may be a factor in later age at marriage among women in the developing world, such a causal link has not been established empirically.

First, the necessary analysis has not been undertaken. Such analyses require time-series data of good quality and sophisticated econometric models to address the potential endogeneity biases.

4.1. Types of Societies

Not only is there an issue of reverse causality, noted above, whereby delayed marriage may increase the likelihood of entry into the labor force, but the same elements that predispose women to work may encourage later marriage. Second, there are several country examples that challenge an association between the expansion of paid work for women and delayed marriage.

In Latin America, the labor force participation of women has risen see Chapter 5 at the same time that age of marriage has remained fairly stable. In Egypt, the age of marriage has increased considerably while employment opportunities for women have declined substantially Amin and Al-Bassusi, In comparison to women, there is little research that examines the reasons for changes in marriage age for men. Some researchers offer similar explanations for men as for women arguing that the extended educational path taken by men in recent years in many countries may contribute to the rise in their age of marriage Hertrich, Yet it is economic reasons that are commonly invoked as the primary reason for the delay in marriage of men see, for example, Williams and Guest, To the best of our knowledge, there are few studies that investigate the association between economic status—whether employment or income—and marriage patterns of men in the developing world.

One notable exception is the work of Antoine and his colleagues Antoine, Djire, and Laplante, Using hazard models, they compared age at marriage among three. Moreover, while men of the earlier generation born between and who were unemployed were equally likely to marry as their working counterparts, men in the younger cohorts born between and who were unemployed were significantly and substantially less likely to marry.

Apparently economic uncertainty was more a factor in the decision to marry for the younger generation than for the older generation.

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There is some discussion in the literature, although for the most part not systematic analysis, that marriage has become more burdensome financially in the last several decades. See the section below for a discussion of bridewealth. More fundamentally, a transformation is said to have emerged in many societies in the nature of the household economy and concomitantly in the necessities essential for the establishment of a household. While there has not been a rigorous analysis linking the cost of setting up a household with the timing of marriage in Egypt, the fact that the proportion of individuals in the census marriage registration category, katb al-kitaab , in which the marriage is registered but the couple has yet to establish a marital residence, increased fourfold between and , while the annual rate of marriage barely changed, is an indirect indication that rising costs have lead to a delay in the ceremony Singerman and Ibrahim, While this piece of evidence does not firmly establish a link between.

Perhaps increasing exposure to Western media has altered consumer norms and raised the expectations of young people worldwide, so that men feel obligated to postpone marriage until they have acquired the resources needed to establish a household. Given the current numbers of young people in the developing world and the difficulty of ensuring adequate employment opportunities, one can imagine a scenario in which postponement of marriage among men until their 30s or beyond could become more commonplace.

The question is whether the rising cost of establishing a household affects the timing of marriage for most young men, or whether, perhaps, those who are worse off are paradoxically less constrained financially and marry at younger ages. It is also worthwhile considering whether late marriage is viewed as desirable by young men who may be frustrated by their inability to establish a household, even if that inability stems from rising expectations and not from declining economic circumstances.

Furthermore, although marriage in no way imposes sexual exclusivity on men, it is very likely that a postponement in the age at marriage leads to increases in the number of sexual partners before marriage and therefore greater exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Not only might delayed marriage among men be considered by some to be problematic but also, given the increasingly distorted sex ratios at birth in some Asian countries as a result of a strong preference for male offspring and sex-selective abortion, there is speculation that substantial numbers of men will never marry.

Theory suggests that compared with other males in society, bare branches will be prone to seek satisfaction through vice and violence, and will seek to capture resources that will allow them to compete on a more equal. Qualitative evidence from Zimbabwe, where approximately 25 percent of the population is infected with HIV suggests that early childbearing, presumably combined with early marriage, is one strategy adopted by young people to prevent transmission of HIV to spouses and children Grieser et al.

These theoretical predictions are substantiated by empirical evidence so vast and so compelling as to approach the status of social science verity. While there is no historical precedent on a national scale for as distorted a sex ratio as China currently has, it is not clear that the situation is as dire as Hudson and den Boer make out.

Introduction to Society

First, according to the UN Population Division, the sex ratio at birth in China is currently estimated to be 1. Finally, as women become scarce, the hope is that their value will rise and the sex ratio will adjust. While there is a considerable body of literature on the timing of marriage, much less research exists on the terms and conditions of marriage and how they vary by age of the woman at marriage and over time. In particular, little is known about changes in the entry into marriage—the process of acquiring a spouse and the financial exchanges between families—and the nature of marital relations among those newly wed.

Yet the marriage experience is at the very core of gender dynamics in most societies. In this next section we review the existing literature on this subject and summarize what little is known about the marital process and marital life for young people in the developing world and how they have changed in recent years. The magnitude of the age gap between spouses is often regarded as a measure of equity in marriage Amin and Cain, ; Cain, An analysis of World Fertility Survey data from 28 countries found that the age gap is more likely to be small in countries in which women have relatively high status, there is a bilateral kinship structure i.

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Transitions and Social Change: The Early Lives of American Men (Studies in population)

Interestingly, demographic determinants of the age gap, such as the age structure of the pool of potential matches, would appear to matter less than fundamental features of the marriage and family system, suggesting there are clear preferences with. Although there is very little documentation of the effects of a large age gap on a young bride and it is difficult to disentangle social-structural factors that are a consequence of a large age difference from those that are determinants Casterline, Williams, and McDonald, , it is reasonable to assume that adolescent girls with much older partners are hindered in their capacity to negotiate with their spouses about sex and reproduction as well as other aspects of domestic life.

Figure a summarizes recent DHS data on age differences between spouses by age of marriage of the wife. Note also that the analysis is restricted to those in first marriages, because higher order marriages tend to take place at older ages well after the transition to adulthood has taken place.

Women and men face a similar scale of potential job losses and gains, but in different areas

The graph confirms that women who marry prior to age 18 are more likely to have spouses who are older. It also shows that there is as much, if not more variation among regions as within regions by age. Age differences are largest in Western and Middle Africa, where polygyny is still common and teenagers often become junior wives of older men.