Rapid Decline of Female Genital Circumcision in Egypt: An Exploration of Pathways

Jenny Liu, RAND Corporation
Sepideh Modrek, Stanford University
Yevgeniy Goryakin, University of California, Berkeley

Egypt is currently undergoing dramatic changes, including the traditional practice of female circumcision. Fewer than 40% of Egyptian girls born in the mid-1990s are circumcised by age 13 compared to nearly 90% of girls born in the 1980s, and the proportion continues to decline. What explains this large decrease over such a short time period? Using data from the 2005 and 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Surveys, we explore the influence of three potential pathways through which popular attitudes toward female circumcision have spread, while accounting for community norms and policy discourse: economic development and SES improvement, social media messages, and women’s empowerment. We find little evidence of direct effects of policy changes, but do find that SES predictors significantly affect girls’ circumcision risk, even after controlling for unobserved differences across communities. Women’s relative empowerment and social media appear to be more important in explaining differences across communities rather than within communities.

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Presented in Poster Session 6