The Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in West Africa

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The Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in West Africa

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Female genital cutting (FGC) is a practice in which a woman's genitalia are partially or totally removed for non-medical reasons. Undergoing FGC can have serious physical and psychological health consequences. Yet the practice persists in West Africa because of beliefs about beauty, cleanliness, purity, and fidelity. In my three dissertation essays, I (1) test the prevailing theory regarding why FGC persists and I reject that theory, (2) generate an new theoretical explanation for why the norm persists and test the theory with observational data, and (3) investigate the relationship between a woman’s characteristics (e.g., religion, education level, age) and her likelihood of opposing FGC even if she has undergone FGC herself.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2017. Major: Applied Economics. Advisors: Marc Bellemare, Paul Glewwe. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 123 pages.

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Novak, Lindsey. (2017). The Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in West Africa. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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