The authors would like to thank John W. Meyer, John Boli, Ann Meier, Wenjie Liao, Joseph Svec, Jasmine Trang Ha, Yodit Tesfaye, and Thavy Sar for their valuable feedback on the ideas in this article. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant no. 0921767. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
When Do Laws Matter? National Minimum-Age-of-Marriage Laws, Child Rights, and Adolescent Fertility, 1989–2007
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2013
© 2013 Law and Society Association
Law & Society Review
Volume 47, Issue 3, pages 589–619, September 2013
How to Cite
Kim, M., Longhofer, W., Boyle, E. H. and Nyseth Brehm, H. (2013), When Do Laws Matter? National Minimum-Age-of-Marriage Laws, Child Rights, and Adolescent Fertility, 1989–2007. Law & Society Review, 47: 589–619. doi: 10.1111/lasr.12033
- Issue published online: 22 JUL 2013
- Article first published online: 22 JUL 2013
- National Science Foundation. Grant Number: 0921767
Using the case of adolescent fertility, we ask the questions of whether and when national laws have an effect on outcomes above and beyond the effects of international law and global organizing. To answer these questions, we utilize a fixed-effect time-series regression model to analyze the impact of minimum-age-of-marriage laws in 115 poor- and middle-income countries from 1989 to 2007. We find that countries with strict laws setting the minimum age of marriage at 18 experienced the most dramatic decline in rates of adolescent fertility. Trends in countries that set this age at 18 but allowed exceptions (for example, marriage with parental consent) were indistinguishable from countries that had no such minimum-age-of-marriage law. Thus, policies that adhere strictly to global norms are more likely to elicit desired outcomes. The article concludes with a discussion of what national law means in a diffuse global system where multiple actors and institutions make the independent effect of law difficult to identify.