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Intimate partner violence and female property rights


Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 30% of ever-partnered women worldwide. This study demonstrates how stronger female marital property rights can lead to lower levels of IPV. If women are financially protected outside of marriage, they in turn experience lower levels of violence inside marriage. Using a natural experiment from the colonization of Sub-Saharan Africa, this study aims to isolate the direct effect of large-scale changes to women’s property rights from other IPV risk factors. The findings show that more equitable marital property rights could both reduce the incidence of IPV and also increase women’s own condemnation of the violence. The empirical estimates suggest that legal property reform could render at least 12 million women less vulnerable to IPV across Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Fig. 1: Split ethnic groups and legal systems.
Fig. 2: IPV experience by ethnicity.
Fig. 3: IPV experience and beliefs.

Data Availability

Replication data are available on the author’s website: Source data are provided with this paper.

Code Availability

Replication code is available on the authors website: Source data are provided with this paper.


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The author received no specific funding for this work.

Author information




S.A. conceived the research, put together the data, conducted the analyses and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Siwan Anderson.

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Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information: Nature Human Behaviour thanks Lori Heise, Nathan Nunn and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Primary Handling Editor: Aisha Bradshaw.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary information

Supplementary Results: Supplementary Tables 1−5, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary References.

Reporting summary

Peer review information.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Statistical Source Data

Source Data Fig. 2

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Source Data Fig. 3

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Anderson, S. Intimate partner violence and female property rights. Nat Hum Behav (2021).

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