Marriage Institutions and Sibling Competition: Evidence from South Asia
Using data from South Asia, this paper examines how arranged marriage cultivates rivalry among sisters. During marriage search, parents with multiple daughters reduce the reservation quality for an older daughter's groom, rushing her marriage to allow sufficient time to marry off her younger sisters. Relative to younger brothers, younger sisters increase a girl's marriage risk; relative to younger singleton sisters, younger twin sisters have the same effect. These effects intensify in marriage markets with lower sex ratios or greater parental involvement in marriage arrangements. In contrast, older sisters delay a girl's marriage. Because girls leave school when they marry and face limited earnings opportunities when they reach adulthood, the number of sisters has well-being consequences over the lifecycle. Younger sisters cause earlier school-leaving, lower literacy, a match to a husband with less education and a less-skilled occupation, and (marginally) lower adult economic status. Data from a broader set of countries indicate that these cross-sister pressures on marriage age are common throughout the developing world, although the schooling costs vary by setting.
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