Consumption Smoothing, Migration and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India
Migration in India, particularly in rural areas, is dominated by the movements of women for the purpose of marriage. We seek to explain these mobility patterns by examining marital arrangements among Indian households. In particular, we hypothesize that the marrying out of daughters to locationally distant, dispersed yet kinship-related households, are manifestations of implicit inter-household contractual arrangements aimed at mitigating income risks and facilitating consumption smoothing in an environment characterized by information costs and spatially covariant risks. Analysis of longitudinal South Indian village data lends support to the hypothesis. Marriage cum migration contributes significantly to a reduction in the variability of household food consumption. Farm households afflicted with more variable profits tend to engage in longer distance marriage cum migration. The hypothesized and observed marriage cum migration patterns are in dissonance with standard models of marriage or migration which are concerned primarily with search costs and static income gains.
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