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Why Dowry Payments Declined with Modernization in Europe but Are Rising in India

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  • Siwan Anderson

Abstract

In contrast to most dowry-oriented societies in which payments have declined with modernization, those in India have undergone significant inflation over the last five decades. This paper explains the difference between these two experiences by focusing on the role played by caste. The theoretical model contrasts caste- and non-caste-based societies: in the former, there exists an inherited component to status (caste) that is independent of wealth, and in the latter, wealth is the primary determinant of status. Modernization is assumed to involve two components: increasing average wealth and increasing wealth dispersion within status (or caste) groups. The paper shows that, in caste-based societies, the increases in wealth dispersion that accompany modernization necessarily lead to increases in dowry payments, whereas in non-caste-based societies, increased dispersion has no real effect on dowry payments and increasing average wealth causes the payments to decline.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 111 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 269-310

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:111:y:2003:i:2:p:269-310

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  1. Stuard, Susan Mosher, 1981. "Dowry Increase and Increments in Wealth in Medieval Ragusa (Dubrovnik)," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(04), pages 795-811, December.
  2. Burdett, Ken & Coles, Melvyn G, 1997. "Marriage and Class," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 141-68, February.
  3. Echevarria, Cristina & Merlo, Antonio, 1999. "Gender Differences in Education in a Dynamic Household Bargaining Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(2), pages 265-86, May.
  4. Dixon, Ruth B, 1982. "Mobilizing Women for Rural Employment in South Asia: Issues of Class, Caste, and Patronage," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 373-90, January.
  5. Maristella Botticini & Aloysius Siow, 2003. "Why Dowries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1385-1398, September.
  6. Vijayendra Rao, . "The Rising Price of Husbands: A Hedonic Analysis of Dowry Increases in Rural India," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 91-6, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  7. Eeckhout, Jan, 2000. "On the uniqueness of stable marriage matchings," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 1-8, October.
  8. Junsen Zhang & William Chan, 1999. "Dowry and Wife's Welfare: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(4), pages 786-808, August.
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