In areas of Africa hard hit by HIV/AIDS, there are growing concerns that many women lose access to land after the death of their husbands. However, there remains a dearth of quantitative evidence on the proportion of widows who lose access to their deceased husband’s land, whether they lose all or part of that land, and whether there are factors specific to the widow, her family, or the broader community that influence her ability to maintain rights to land. This study examines these issues using average treatment effects models with propensity score matching applied to a nationally representative panel data of 5,342 rural households surveyed in 2001 and 2004. Results are highly variable, with roughly a third of households incurring the death of a male household head controlling less than 50% of the land they had prior to their husband’s death, while over a quarter actually controlled as much or even more land than while their husbands were alive. Widows who were in relatively wealthy households prior to their husband’s death lose proportionately more land than widows in households that were relatively poor. Older widows and widows related to the local headman enjoy greater land security. Women in matrilineal inheritance areas were no less likely to lose land than women in patrilineal areas.
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