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“When the heart is baked, don’t try to knead it”: Marriage age and spousal age gap as a measure of female ‘agency’

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  • Sarah Guilland Carmichael
  • Tine De Moor
  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

Abstract

The study of the ages women marry and the age gap between husband and wife is well accepted by social-economic historians and demographers as it is highly associated with the growth of a population. There is however another reason for studying marriage patterns, that of female agency. Young girls who marry men many years their senior are likely left with very little say as to the terms of the union and later decisions made within the household. This is a hypothesis that has been explored by a number of authors recently as marriage patterns data is available on a large scale over a long time period. But how good a measure are ages at marriage of women and spousal age gaps. Rather than explore the mechanisms underlying this relationship this paper seeks to test marriage patterns as a measure of female empowerment by comparing a global set of marriage patterns data against three measures currently in use in the international development community, the Gender –related Development Index, the Global Gender Gap Index and the Gender Inequality Index. We use a new index of marriage ages (the Girlpower-Index) constructed by subtracting spousal age gap from marriage age and find that female SMAM and the Girlpower-Index both correlate strongly with the modern gender empowerment indices. This lends support to the use of marriage patterns as a historical measure of gender empowerment.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarah Guilland Carmichael & Tine De Moor & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2011. "“When the heart is baked, don’t try to knead it”: Marriage age and spousal age gap as a measure of female ‘agency’," Working Papers 0019, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0019
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Stimpfle & David Stadelmann, 2016. "Marriage Age Affects Educational Gender Inequality: International Evidence," CREMA Working Paper Series 2016-02, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    2. Selin Dilli, 2013. "The Role of Female Agency in Politics: A Global Study, 1850-2000," Working Papers 0038, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    3. PERVIN, Shahida & KHAN, Md. Azam & SHAH, Md. Mahmud Hasan, 2014. "Household-level Analysis ofWomen’s Power Practice in Old Dhaka City, Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 61144, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. PERVIN, Shahida & KHAN, Md. Azam & SHAH, Md. Mahmud Hasan, 2014. "Household-level Analysis ofWomen’s Power Practice in Old Dhaka City, Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 62833, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    Keywords

    Marriage Patterns; Gender; Female agency; Female SMAM; spousal age gap; Gender empowerment indices;

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