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For Better and for Worse - How Unpaid Bride Wealth provides Security

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  • Hans Hoogeveen

    ()
    (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

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    Abstract

    The obligation to pay bride wealth at marriage is usually associated with thecontinuation of the lineage or considered a compensation for the loss of laborfor the family that provides the bride. In this paper a different interpretationis advanced. The obligation to pay of bride wealth is seen as informal insurancewhich relies on the fact that bride wealth liabilities are contingent claims.Empirical evidence from Zimbabwe is presented to support this claim. In theabsence of formal insurance mechanisms, bride wealth qualifies as an importantsecurity enhancing institution: the arrangement covers nearly the completeZimbabwean adult population and permits to pool risks between many differentfamilies. Additionally the amounts involved are large and the period of timeduring which the claims provide security long. Like any informal insurancearrangement, the marriage system is prone to failure as a result of covariantrisk and information and enforcement problems. It is shown how the marriageprocedure deals with these problems.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Tinbergen Institute in its series Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers with number 00-079/2.

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    Date of creation: 09 Oct 2000
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    Handle: RePEc:dgr:uvatin:20000079

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    Web page: http://www.tinbergen.nl

    Related research

    Keywords: Risk; Insurance; Institutions; Bride Wealth; Africa;

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    1. Dercon, Stefan, 2002. "Income Risk, Coping Strategies and Safety Nets," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Coate, Stephen & Ravallion, Martin, 1993. "Reciprocity without commitment : Characterization and performance of informal insurance arrangements," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, February.
    3. Scoones, Ian, 1992. "The economic value of livestock in the communal areas of southern Zimbabwe," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 339-359.
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    7. Skinner, Jonathan, 1988. "Risky income, life cycle consumption, and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 237-255, September.
    8. Ravallion, Martin, 1996. "Famines and economics," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1693, The World Bank.
    9. Timothy Besley, 1995. "Nonmarket Institutions for Credit and Risk Sharing in Low-Income Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 115-127, Summer.
    10. Kinsey, Bill & Burger, Kees & Gunning, Jan Willem, 1998. "Coping with drought in Zimbabwe: Survey evidence on responses of rural households to risk," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 89-110, January.
    11. Udry, Christopher, 1990. "Credit Markets in Northern Nigeria: Credit as Insurance in a Rural Economy," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 4(3), pages 251-69, September.
    12. Jean-Philippe Platteau, 1997. "Mutual insurance as an elusive concept in traditional rural communities," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(6), pages 764-796.
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