Changing patterns of marriage and cohabitation in South Africa

Authors Dorrit Posel, Stephanie Rudwick

ISSN: 1996-2088
Affiliations: Professor and NRF/DST Chair, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Researcher, University of Leipzig
Source: Acta Juridica, 2013, p. 169 – 180


In this study, we investigate recent trends in marriage and cohabitation in South Africa. We use national micro-data to describe how marriage rates diverge sharply by race, with African women far less likely than White women to be ever-married and more likely to be never-married and not cohabiting with a partner. Large racial differences in marital status are evident also among women who are mothers, helping to explain why the majority of African children do not live in the same households as their fathers. We discuss these trends and patterns by reviewing particularly recent research, which suggests that there are economic constraints to marriage, and which explores possible links between widespread support for the custom of bridewealth and low marriage and cohabitation rates among African women, even in the context of childbirth.