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For Better and for Worse - How Unpaid Bride Wealth provides Security

Author

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  • Hans Hoogeveen

    () (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Abstract

The obligation to pay bride wealth at marriage is usually associated with thecontinuation of the lineage or considered a compensation for the loss of laborfor the family that provides the bride. In this paper a different interpretationis advanced. The obligation to pay of bride wealth is seen as informal insurancewhich relies on the fact that bride wealth liabilities are contingent claims.Empirical evidence from Zimbabwe is presented to support this claim. In theabsence of formal insurance mechanisms, bride wealth qualifies as an importantsecurity enhancing institution: the arrangement covers nearly the completeZimbabwean adult population and permits to pool risks between many differentfamilies. Additionally the amounts involved are large and the period of timeduring which the claims provide security long. Like any informal insurancearrangement, the marriage system is prone to failure as a result of covariantrisk and information and enforcement problems. It is shown how the marriageprocedure deals with these problems.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans Hoogeveen, 2000. "For Better and for Worse - How Unpaid Bride Wealth provides Security," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 00-079/2, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20000079
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Martin Ravallion, 1997. "Famines and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1205-1242, September.
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    3. Arnott, Richard & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1991. "Moral Hazard and Nonmarket Institutions: Dysfunctional Crowding Out or Peer Monitoring?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 179-190, March.
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    6. Scoones, Ian, 1992. "The economic value of livestock in the communal areas of southern Zimbabwe," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 339-359.
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Risk; Insurance; Institutions; Bride Wealth; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Q14 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Finance

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