Here is a rather startling statistic for you: “Across the region [Africa], 3% of all women aged 15-49 are widows at any point in time. Including the many young widows who remarry, more than 5% of ever-widowed women are under the age of 49.”
This reflects several factors: the far higher remarriage rates among men following widowhood or divorce, the greater average life expectancy of women, and, in places, the ravages of HIV and conflict. As a result, one in 10 African women 15 and older are widows. And these women are much more likely to head their own households; 72% are heads of the family.
Anyone know what the comparative stats are for South Asia, Russia, and Central America?
Potential policy interventions here would probably include public health campaigns to increase the life expectancy of men (Mututho, anyone?), as well as economic incentives to reduce the inter-spousal age gap at first marriage for women (probability of widowhood increases with the age of one’s husband).
An inappropriate policy intervention would be to treat this as a “single motherhood epidemic” because of differences in childrearing practices across the globe (Also notice the pretty flat rate of singlehood among women in the graph on the right).