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Increased access to defensible material wealth is hypothesised to escalate inequality. Market integration, which creates novel opportunities in cash economies, provides a means of testing this hypothesis. Using demographic data collected from 505 households among the matrilineal and patrilineal Mosuo in 2017, we test whether market integration is associated with increased material wealth, whether increased material wealth is associated with wealth inequality, and whether being in a matrilineal vs. patrilineal kinship system alters the relationship between wealth and inequality. We find evidence that market integration, measured as distance to the nearest source of tourism and primary source of household income, is associated with increased household income and ‘modern’ asset value. Both village-level market integration and mean asset value were associated negatively, rather than positively, with inequality, contrary to predictions. Finally, income, modern wealth and inequality were higher in matrilineal communities that were located closer to the centre of tourism and where tourism has long provided a relatively stable source of income. However, we also observed exacerbated inequality with increasing farm animal value in patriliny. We conclude that the forces affecting wealth and inequality depend on local context and that the importance of local institutions is obscured by aggregate statistics drawn from modern nation states.
Although the international community has recently promoted legislation as an important reform strategy for ending female genital cutting (FGC), there exist divergent views on its potential effects. Supporters argue that legal prohibition of FGC has a general deterrent effect, while others argue legislation can be perceived as coercive, and derail local efforts to end the practice. This study examines the range of responses observed in rural Senegal, where a 1999 anti-FGC law was imposed on communities in which the practice was being actively contested and targeted for elimination. Drawing on data from a mixed-methods study, we analyze responses in relation to two leading theories on social regulation, the law and economics and law and society paradigms, which make divergent predictions on the interplay between social norms and legal norms. Among supporters of FGC, legal norms ran counter to social norms, and did little to deter the practice, and in some instances incited reactance or drove the practice underground. Conversely, where FGC was being contested, legislation served to strengthen the stance of those contemplating or favoring abandonment. We conclude that legislation can complement other reform strategies by creating an “enabling environment” that supports those who have or wish to abandon FGC.
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