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The Economics of Dowry and Brideprice

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  • Siwan Anderson

Abstract

Payments between families at the time of marriage have existed throughout the history of most developed countries and are currently pervasive in many areas of the developing world. These payments can be substantial enough to affect the welfare of women and a society's distribution of wealth. Recent estimates document transfers per marriage amounting to four to six times annual household income. This paper first establishes some basic facts about the prevalence and magnitude of marriage payments. It then discusses how such patterns vary across countries depending upon economic conditions, societal structures, institutions, and family characteristics. Marriage payments have evolved within societies over time: in some periods, payments have risen sharply; in some cases, payments have shifted from the grooms' side to the brides', and vice versa; sometimes, property rights over such payments shift between marrying partners and parental generations. The second part of this paper discusses the economic literature devoted to explaining these facts.

Suggested Citation

  • Siwan Anderson, 2007. "The Economics of Dowry and Brideprice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 151-174, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:4:p:151-174
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.4.151
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    1. Botticini, Maristella, 1999. "A Loveless Economy? Intergenerational Altruism and the Marriage Market in a Tuscan Town, 1415–1436," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(01), pages 104-121, March.
    2. Rao, Vijayendra, 1993. "The Rising Price of Husbands: A Hedonic Analysis of Dowry Increases in Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 666-677, August.
    3. Marleen Dekker & Hans Hoogeveen, 2002. "Bride Wealth and Household Security in Rural Zimbabwe," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 11(1), pages 114-145, March.
    4. Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1341-1370, December.
    5. Lupin Rahman & Vijayendra Rao, 2004. "The Determinants of Gender Equity in India: Examining Dyson and Moore's Thesis with New Data," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(2), pages 239-268.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Bishai, David & Grossbard, Shoshana, 2007. "Far Above Rubies: The Association Between Bride Price and Extramarital Sexual Relations in Uganda," IZA Discussion Papers 2982, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Philip H. Brown, 2009. "Dowry and Intrahousehold Bargaining: Evidence from China," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
    10. William L. Parish & Robert J. Willis, 1993. "Daughters, Education, and Family Budgets Taiwan Experiences," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(4), pages 863-898.
    11. Raj Arunachalam & Trevon D. Logan, 2016. "On the heterogeneity of dowry motives," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 135-166, January.
    12. Lena Edlund, 2000. "The Marriage Squeeze Interpretation of Dowry Inflation: A Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1327-1333, December.
    13. Jacoby, Hanan G, 1995. "The Economics of Polygyny in Sub-Saharan Africa: Female Productivity and the Demand for Wives in Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 938-971, October.
    14. Habibi, Nader, 1997. "An Economic Analysis of the Prenuptial Agreement (Mahrieh) in Contemporary Iran," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 281-293, January.
    15. Siwan Anderson, 2003. "Why Dowry Payments Declined with Modernization in Europe but Are Rising in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(2), pages 269-310, April.
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