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Marry for What? Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India

  • Abhijit Banerjee
  • Esther Dufloi
  • Maitreesh Ghatak
  • Jeanne Lafortune

This paper analyzes how preferences for a non-economic characteristic, such as caste, can affect equilibrium patterns of matching in the marriage market, and empirically evaluates this in the context of arranged marriages among middle-class Indians. We develop a model that demonstrates how the equilibrium consequences of caste depend on whether we observe a bias towards one’s own group or if there is a preference for “marrying up”. We then estimate actual preferences for caste, education, beauty, and other attributes using a unique data set on individuals who placed matrimonial advertisements in a major newspaper, the responses they received, and how they ranked them. Our key empirical finding is the presence of a strong preference for in-caste marriage. We find that in equilibrium, as predicted by our theoretical framework, these preferences do little to alter the matching patterns on non-caste attributes, and so people do not have to sacrifice much to marry within caste. This suggests a reason whycaste remains a persistent feature of the Indian marriage market.

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Paper provided by Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. in its series Documentos de Trabajo with number 423.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ioe:doctra:423
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  1. Vijayendra Rao, . "The Rising Price of Husbands: A Hedonic Analysis of Dowry Increases in Rural India," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 91-6, Chicago - Population Research Center.
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  9. Olivier Bargain & Sumon Kumar Bhaumik & Manisha Chakrabarty & Zhong Zhao, 2009. "Earnings Differences Between Chinese And Indian Wage Earners, 1987-2004," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(s1), pages 562-587, 07.
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  17. Subhasish Dugar & Haimanti Bhattacharya & David Reiley, 2012. "Can'T Buy Me Love? A Field Experiment Exploring The Trade‐Off Between Income And Caste‐Status In An Indian Matrimonial Market," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(2), pages 534-550, 04.
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  21. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1993. "Credit Market Constraints, Consumption Smoothing, and the Accumulation of Durable Production Assets in Low-Income Countries: Investment in Bullocks in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 223-44, April.
  22. Aytek Erdil & Haluk Ergin, 2007. "What`s the Matter with Tie-breaking? Improving Efficiency in School Choice," Economics Series Working Papers 349, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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