Persistence and Change in Marriage Practices Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Maia Sieverding, Caroline Krafft, Nasma Berri and Caitlyn Keo

Economic Research Forum Working Paper Series, Working Paper 1281, January 2019


This paper examines changes in marriage practices among Syrian refugees in Jordan, including age at marriage and early marriage. The analysis is based on nationally representative survey data from Jordan in 2016 (JLMPS) and Syria in 2009 (PAPFAM), as well as qualitative interviews with Syrian refugee youth in Jordan. Patterns of the timing of marriage in JLMPS 2016 could be reflective of either select movements into Jordan or the consequences of conflict and displacement. The authors find:

  • Syrians who fled to Jordan are not representative of all Syrians, with implications for age at marriage. Syrian women in Jordan are less educated and younger cohorts are over-represented in the population of Syrians in Jordan.
  • Rates of early marriage among Syrian refugees in Jordan have remained similar from pre-to post-conflict. In PAPFAM 2009, 21 percent of women married before age 18, and 5 percent married before age 15. In JLMPS 2016, 24 percent married before age 18, and 4 percent before age 15. Although the rate of early marriage among Syrian refugees in Jordan has not increased since their displacement, it is still high compared to many other countries in MENA, including the host populations in Jordan and Lebanon.
  • The Syrian refugee population in Jordan had younger ages of marriage than the national (pre-conflict) rate in Syria. In JLMPS 2016 the median age of marriage was 20 (compared to 22 in PAPFAM 2009) and the 75th percentile was 24 (compared to 30 in PAPFAM), indicating a compressed period of transition to marriage among the population of Syrian women now in Jordan—a larger proportion marry in their late teens and early twenties. (Many refugee women would have married in Syria.)
  • Drivers of early marriage may have changed. Poverty and security concerns have created additional drivers for early marriage. Economic challenges faced by young refugee men have also created disincentives to marry.
  • Other marriage outcomes have important long-term implications for women’s wellbeing. Marriage expenditures (including bride price) may be lower post-conflict, while independent residence upon marriage and consanguinity are less common.


Jordan | Syria