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Muslim Family Law, Prenuptial Agreements, and the Emergence of Dowry in Bangladesh

  • Attila Ambrus

    (Harvard University.)

  • Erica Field

    (Harvard University.)

  • Maximo Torero

    (International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).)

We explain trends in dowry levels in Bangladesh by drawing attention to an institutional feature of marriage contracts previously ignored in the literature: mehr or traditional Islamic bride-price. We develop a model of marriage contracts in which mehr serves as a barrier to husbands exiting marriage and a component of dowry as an amount that ex ante compensates the groom for the cost of mehr. We investigate how mehr and dowry respond to exogenous changes in the costs of polygamy and divorce, and show that our model gives a different set of predictions than traditional models. We show that major changes in dowry levels took place precisely after the legal changes, corresponding to simultaneous changes in levels of mehr. (c) 2010 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 125 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 1349-1397

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:125:y:2010:i:3:p:1349-1397
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