Marriage in Africa: simple economics

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Kullīyat al-Aḥfād al-Jāmiʻīyah lil-Banāt


Marriage is like a groundnut: you have to crack it open to see what is inside. So goes an Akan proverb, and in this paper we apply the tools of economic analysis to crack open some of the puzzling questions regarding marriage. The application to marriage of these tools is somewhat recent. Marriage is one of those institutions that for a long time defied economic analysis. Economics is a preeminently Western social science, and Western societies have had a dominant discourse that marriage should be based on romantic love. Marriage and love were supposed to be irrational, and hence economics, with its presumption of rational evaluation of alternatives, seemed to have little to say. Becker's (1981) famous Treatise on the Family stands out as a landmark in the changing perceptions of the appropriateness of an economics of marriage.