Conformity and change: Community effects on female genital cutting in Kenya

Sarah R. Hayford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


In this article, I analyze women's decisions to have their daughters circumcised based on data from 7,873 women in Kenya collected in the 1998 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. I use multilevel models to assess the degree to which women's decisions are correlated with the decisions of other women in their community, in addition to studying the effects of socioeconomic characteristics measured at both the individual and community levels. I find some support for modernization theories, which argue that economic development leads to gradual erosion of the practice of female circumcision. However, more community-level variation is explained by the convention hypothesis, which proposes that the prevalence of female circumcision will decline rapidly once parents see that a critical mass of other parents have stopped circumcising their daughters. I also find substantial variation among different ethnic groups in the pace and onset of the decline of female genital cutting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-140
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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