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On the Heterogeneity of Dowry Motives

Listed author(s):
  • Raj Arunachalam
  • Trevon D. Logan

Dowries have been modeled as pre-mortem bequests to daughters or as groom-prices paid to in-laws. These two classes of models yield mutually exclusive predictions, but empirical tests of these predictions have been mixed. We argue that the heterogeneity of findings can be explained by a heterogeneous world--some households use dowries as a bequest and others use dowries as a price. We estimate a model with heterogeneous dowry motives and use the predictions from the competing theories in an exogenous switching regression to place households in the price or bequest regime. Our empirical strategy generates multiple, independent checks on the validity of regime assignment. Using retrospective marriage data from rural Bangladesh, we find robust evidence of heterogeneity in dowry motives in the population; that bequest dowries have declined in prevalence and amount over time; and that bequest households are better off compared to price households on a variety of welfare measures.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12630.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12630.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
Publication status: published as Raj Arunachalam & Trevon D. Logan, 2016. "On the heterogeneity of dowry motives," Journal of Population Economics, vol 29(1), pages 135-166.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12630
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  1. Morduch, Jonathan J. & Stern, Hal S., 1997. "Using mixture models to detect sex bias in health outcomes in Bangladesh," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 259-276, March.
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  3. Garcia, Rene & Lusardi, Annamaria & Ng, Serena, 1997. "Excess Sensitivity and Asymmetries in Consumption: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(2), pages 154-176, May.
  4. 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.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1.
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  7. Sekhri, Sheetal & Storeygard, Adam, 2014. "Dowry deaths: Response to weather variability in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 212-223.
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  9. Tullio Jappelli & Jörn-Steffen Pischke & Nicholas S. Souleles, 1998. "Testing For Liquidity Constraints In Euler Equations With Complementary Data Sources," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 251-262, May.
  10. 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).
  11. Dickens, William T & Lang, Kevin, 1985. "A Test of Dual Labor Market Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 792-805, September.
  12. Marco Alfano, 2014. "Daughters, Dowries, Deliveries:The Effect of Marital Payments on Fertility Choices in India," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1413, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  13. Dalmia, Sonia, 2004. "A hedonic analysis of marriage transactions in India: estimating determinants of dowries and demand for groom characteristics in marriage," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 235-255, September.
  14. 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.
  15. Francis Bloch & Vijayendra Rao, 2002. "Terror as a Bargaining Instrument: A Case Study of Dowry Violence in Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1029-1043, September.
  16. Trevon D. Logan & Raj Arunachalam, 2014. "Is There Dowry Inflation in South Asia?," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 81-94, June.
  17. Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1341-1370, December.
  18. N. Kabeer, 2001. "Ideas, Economics and 'the Sociology of Supply': Explanations for Fertility Decline in Bangladesh," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(1), pages 29-70.
  19. Vijayendra Rao, 2000. "The Marriage Squeeze Interpretation of Dowry Inflation: Response," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1334-1336, December.
  20. 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.
  21. William T. Dickens & Kevin Lang, 1985. "Testing Dual Labor Market Theory: A Reconsideration of the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 1670, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. repec:fth:pennfi:69 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Rochona Majumdar, 2004. "SnehalataÃŒs death: Dowry and womenÃŒs agency in colonial Bengal," The Indian Economic & Social History Review, , vol. 41(4), pages 433-464, December.
  24. Lena Edlund, 2000. "The Marriage Squeeze Interpretation of Dowry Inflation: A Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1327-1333, December.
  25. Lee, Lung-Fei & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Switching Regression Models with Imperfect Sample Separation Information-With an Application on Cartel Stability," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 391-418, March.
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