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


  • Siwan Anderson


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.

Suggested Citation

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

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William Darity, Jr. & Ashwini Deshpande, 2000. "Tracing the Divide: Intergroup Disparity across Countries," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 75-85, Winter.
    2. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
    3. Eeckhout, Jan, 2000. "On the uniqueness of stable marriage matchings," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 1-8, October.
    4. 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.
    5. David Lam, 1988. "Marriage Markets and Assortative Mating with Household Public Goods: Theoretical Results and Empirical Implications," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(4), pages 462-487.
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