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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. Günter Hitsch & Ali Hortaçsu & Dan Ariely, 2010. "What makes you click?—Mate preferences in online dating," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 393-427, December.
  2. repec:oup:restud:v:75:y:2008:i:1:p:117-132 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. 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.
  4. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2001. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 298-319, April.
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  7. Raquel Fernández, 2003. "Household Formation, Inequality, and the Macroeconomy," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 683-697, 04/05.
  8. 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.
  9. Glinskaya, Elena & Lokshin, Michael, 2005. "Wage differentials between the public and private sector in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3574, The World Bank.
  10. Ran Abramitzky & Adeline Delavande & Luís Vasconcelos, 2010. "Marrying Up: The Role of Sex Ratio in Assortative Matching," Research Working Papers 36, MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict.
  11. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2006. "Traditional Institutions Meet the Modern World: Caste, Gender, and Schooling Choice in a Globalizing Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1225-1252, September.
  12. Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sonmez, 2008. "Leveling the Playing Field: Sincere and Sophisticated Players in the Boston Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1636-52, September.
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  14. Alberto Bisin & Giorgio Topa & Thierry Verdier, 2004. "Religious Intermarriage and Socialization in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 615-664, June.
  15. Almenberg, Johan & Dreber, Anna, 2008. "Lady and the Trump: Status and Wealth in the Marriage Market," Working Paper Series 728, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, revised 10 Jul 2008.
  16. Raymond Fisman & Sheena S. Iyengar & Emir Kamenica & Itamar Simonson, 2006. "Gender Differences in Mate Selection: Evidence From a Speed Dating Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 673-697.
  17. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
  18. 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.
  19. 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 666-77, August.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Elliott Peranson & Alvin E. Roth, 1999. "The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 748-780, September.
  23. 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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