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Natural Shocks and Marriage Markets: Evolution of Mehr and Dowry in Muslim Marriages

Author

Listed:
  • Chowdhury, Shyamal

    () (University of Sydney)

  • Mallick, Debdulal

    () (Deakin University)

  • Chowdhury, Prabal Roy

    () (Indian Statistical Institute)

Abstract

We examine how mehr, a conditional payment from husbands to wives in the event of divorce, and dowry, a transfer from bride families to grooms at the time of marriage, have evolved through natural shocks. We develop a model of marriage market in which dowry acts as a groom price, whereas mehr serves to deter inefficient divorces. Our comparative statics results show that the value of mehr is increasing (decreasing) in shocks that raise (lower) income while the effect of such shocks on dowry is ambiguous; even if dowry increases (decreases), the magnitude will be smaller than the corresponding increase (decrease) in mehr. We then exploit several natural experiments in Bangladesh, that include the Green Revolution around the 1960s, the Independence War in 1971 and the famine of 1974, to explain fluctuations in the value of mehr and dowry observed in Muslim marriages. Using two household survey datasets in Bangladesh, we find support for our theoretical predictions. To rule out alternative explanations, in particular the effect of legal changes, we exploit another natural experiment from the Indian state of West Bengal that experienced the same natural shocks, but not any of the legal shocks affecting Bangladesh. These results demonstrate that natural shocks may influence the evolution of social institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Chowdhury, Shyamal & Mallick, Debdulal & Chowdhury, Prabal Roy, 2017. "Natural Shocks and Marriage Markets: Evolution of Mehr and Dowry in Muslim Marriages," IZA Discussion Papers 10675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10675
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Marianne Baxter & Robert G. King, 1999. "Measuring Business Cycles: Approximate Band-Pass Filters For Economic Time Series," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 575-593, November.
    4. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, January.
    5. Sekhri, Sheetal & Storeygard, Adam, 2014. "Dowry deaths: Response to weather variability in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 212-223.
    6. Raj Arunachalam & Trevon Logan, 2016. "On the heterogeneity of dowry motives," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 135-166, January.
    7. Attila Ambrus & Erica Field & Maximo Torero, 2010. "Muslim Family Law, Prenuptial Agreements, and the Emergence of Dowry in Bangladesh," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1349-1397.
    8. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-846, July-Aug..
    9. 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.
    10. Michael Peters & Aloysius Siow, 2002. "Competing Premarital Investments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 592-608, June.
    11. 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.
    12. Siwan Anderson & Chris Bidner, 2015. "Property Rights over Marital Transfers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(3), pages 1421-1484.
    13. Philip H. Brown, 2009. "Dowry and Intrahousehold Bargaining: Evidence from China," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    dowry; mehr; Muslim family law; natural shocks; Bangladesh; West Bengal;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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