Economies of Courtship: Matrimonial Transactions and the Construction of Gender and Class Inequalities in Egypt

Last updated December 2010
Rania Salem
In many societies the formation of marital unions requires considerable resources. But in Egypt, young people and their families must save for years to afford the real estate, jewelry, furniture, appliances, and celebrations required for marriage. The high cost of marriage has been linked to three important transformations in marriage behavior in Egypt: the rising age at first marriage for young men, greater female contributions to marriage expenses, and the emergence of secret marital unions. The purpose of this mixed-methods dissertation is to investigate the consequences of these changes in marriage behavior for Egypt’s economic development, particularly implications for women’s employment and for socioeconomic and gender inequalities. I argue that the need to finance marriage is a major factor driving women’s pursuit of wage work in Egypt. Men’s diminished earnings coupled with women’s access to employment have prompted brides to contribute more and more to the costs of marriage. I also find that the economic resources women receive at marriage do not enhance their power in relation to husbands, and do not reduce gender inequalities, as theory would predict.

Contact Information:
Rania Salem,, Princeton University