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Wedding Celebrations as Conspicuous Consumption: Signaling Social Status in Rural India

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  • Francis Bloch
  • Vijayendra Rao
  • Sonalde Desai

Abstract

We examine the determinants of expenditures on wedding celebrations by rural Indian families. We develop a status signaling model of wedding celebrations where the size of the celebration signals the quality of the new groom’s family and, thus, the enhanced social status of the bride’s family. Predictions from the model are tested with survey data from South India using a natural experiment derived from variations in norms of village exogamy—when daughters have to marry grooms from another village—to identify the availability of information on the groom’s family to the bride’s village. The econometric results are consistent with a status signaling interpretation.

Suggested Citation

  • Francis Bloch & Vijayendra Rao & Sonalde Desai, 2004. "Wedding Celebrations as Conspicuous Consumption: Signaling Social Status in Rural India," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:39:y:2004:i:3:p675-695
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    1. Fafchamps, Marcel & Quisumbing, Agnes, 2005. "Assets at marriage in rural Ethiopia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 1-25, June.
    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. 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.
    4. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-116, March.
    5. Francis Bloch & Vijayendra Rao, 2002. "Terror as a Bargaining Instrument: A Case Study of Dowry Violence in Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1029-1043, September.
    6. Fafchamps, Marcel & Quisumbing, Agnes, 2005. "Assets at marriage in rural Ethiopia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 1-25, June.
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