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The Puzzle of Marriage Migration in India


  • Scott Fulford

    (Boston College)


Two thirds of all Indian women have migrated for marriage, around 300 million women, but little is known about this vast migration. This paper provides a detailed accounting of the puzzlingly large migration of Indian women and evaluates its causes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, marriage migration does not contribute to risk sharing. Nor is it driven by sex ratio imbalances. Instead, I introduce a simple model in which parents must search for a spouse for their daughter geographically. By adding geographical search frictions, the model helps rationalize the large regional differences.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Fulford, 2012. "The Puzzle of Marriage Migration in India," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 820, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 22 Oct 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:820

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Behrman, Jere & Birdsall, Nancy & Deolalikar, Anil, 1995. "Marriage Markets, Labor Markets, and Unobserved Human Capital: An Empirical Exploration for South-Central India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(3), pages 585-601, April.
    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. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo & Maitreesh Ghatak & Jeanne Lafortune, 2013. "Marry for What? Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 33-72, May.
    4. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:2:p:633-654 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Stark, Oded, 1989. "Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 905-926, August.
    6. 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).
    7. Anja Sautmann, 2011. "Partner Search and Demographics: The Marriage Squeeze in India," Working Papers 2011-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    8. Daiji Kawaguchi & Soohyung Lee, 2017. "Brides For Sale: Cross-Border Marriages And Female Immigration," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(2), pages 633-654, April.
    9. Banerjee, Abhijit & Somanathan, Rohini, 2007. "The political economy of public goods: Some evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 287-314, March.
    10. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2017. "Age of Marriage, Weather Shocks, and the Direction of Marriage Payments," Working Papers 2017-055, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    2. Smriti Rao & Kade Finnoff, 2015. "Marriage Migration and Inequality in India, 1983–2008," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 41(3), pages 485-505, September.
    3. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2016. "Weather Shocks, Age of Marriage and the Direction of Marriage Payments," DISCE - Working Papers del Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza def040, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).

    More about this item


    Migration; India; marriage;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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