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Will you marry me, later? Age-of-marriage laws and child marriage in Mexico


  • Cristina Bellés-Obreroy
  • María Lombardi


We provide empirical evidence on the impact of raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years old on child marriage, early motherhood, and school enrollment in Mexico. Using a difference-in-differences model that takes advantage of the staggered adoption of this reform across states, we show that banning child marriage leads to a large and statistically significant reduction in the number of registered child marriages. However, we find no effect on school attendance or early fertility rates. We provide evidence that the mechanism behind these results is the substitution of formal marriage for informal unions. These findings suggest that when informal unions are a viable option for young couples, raising the minimum age of marriage is not enough to prevent early unions and their negative consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Cristina Bellés-Obreroy & María Lombardi, 2020. "Will you marry me, later? Age-of-marriage laws and child marriage in Mexico," Department of Economics Working Papers wp_gob_2020_11, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
  • Handle: RePEc:udt:wpecon:wp_gob_2020_11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2020. "Age of Marriage, Weather Shocks, and the Direction of Marriage Payments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(3), pages 879-915, May.
    2. Pablo Brassiolo, 2016. "Domestic Violence and Divorce Law: When Divorce Threats Become Credible," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 443-477.
    3. Jorge García Hombrados, 2017. "Child Marriage and Infant Mortality: Evidence from Ethiopia," Working Paper Series 1317, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
    4. Sheetal Sekhri & Sisir Debnath, 2014. "Intergenerational Consequences of Early Age Marriages of Girls: Effect on Children's Human Capital," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(12), pages 1670-1686, December.
    5. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2003. "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 828-843, November.
    6. Liyang Sun & Sarah Abraham, 2018. "Estimating Dynamic Treatment Effects in Event Studies with Heterogeneous Treatment Effects," Papers 1804.05785,, revised Sep 2020.
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    More about this item


    child marriage; marriage laws; fertility; schooling;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General


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