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Did Housing Policy Reforms Curb the Delay in Marriage Among Young Men in Egypt?

26 Nov 2008, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ramadan

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MEYI Policy Outlook No. 1, Nov 2008A series of reforms in Egypt has reduced barriers to young people entering the rental housing market by liberalizing restrictive rent controls, allowing for definite duration contracts, and reducing the need for young home seekers to provide large capital outlays, or "advance rent," in order to obtain initial housing. This has led to a reversal in delayed marriage among young men, beginning with those born after 1972. For example, among urban men the average age of marriage dropped from a peak of 29 years for those born in 1972 to 27 years for those after 1972. A one-year drop in the median age of marriage translates into an additional 230,000 25-29-year-old men able to marry, or 16% of those married in that age range. The onset of the decline in male age of marriage is consistent with the time at which the far-reaching housing reforms of 1996 would have begun to affect the supply of rental housing.

Recently, Middle East Youth Initiative scholar Diane Singerman and others have expressed concern about the social implications of the high cost of marriage in the Arab world and the consequent delay in marriage among young men. Research has shown that a large portion of the costs associated with marriage actually stem from new housing, furniture, and appliances for the newlyweds and, in Egypt, the groom and his family bear almost 70 percent of these costs. Thus, when housing and marriage become more affordable, the troubling period of waithood that defines the realities experienced by many youth in the region can be alleviated. These findings also have significant policy implications in other areas of the housing sector, including the developing mortgage markets in Egypt.

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