Widowhood and asset inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa: empirical evidence from 15 countries

Type Journal Article
Title Widowhood and asset inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa: empirical evidence from 15 countries
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
URL http://www.odi.org.uk/events/documents/2507-papers-igt-peterman-2.pdf
Widows in sub-Saharan Africa are perceived to face wide-spread discrimination in asset and property inheritance following the death of a spouse, leading to poverty for themselves and their children. However, large-sample empirical research directly supporting this claim is scarce. This paper explores\nlevels, determinants and effects of asset inheritance among widows using data from two sources: 1) cross-country, nationally representative Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 15 sub-Saharan African countries to assess levels and correlates of asset inheritance among ever widowed women ages 15 to 49, and 2) a 13 year longitudinal panel from the Kagera region in northwestern Tanzania to examine the relationship between inheritance and levels of household per capita consumption and value of asset stocks. Results indicate that across the 15 DHS countries, less than half of widows report inheriting any assets (average inheritance of any assets is 47 percent, ranging from 22 percent in Sierra Leone to 66 percent in Rwanda), while report of inheriting the majority of assets is lower (average of 32 percent ranging from 13 percent in Sierra Leone to 60 percent in Rwanda). Across countries, inheritance is generally correlated with higher education and wealth, indicating that women with higher socioeconomic status may be more able to negotiate favorable asset inheritance outcomes. Findings from Kagera indicate that the value of inheritances, especially for widows (and specifically land inheritance), is significant in determining changes in long-term household welfare when accounting for sources of unobservable community and individual-level bias. Taken together, findings indicate a major role for creative and culturally sensitive program design to protect widow asset inheritance both through property and family\nlaw, coupled with rigorous impact evaluation to document effectiveness of these programs.\n

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