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A Theory of Child Marriage

Listed author(s):
  • Zaki Wahhaj

    ()

The practice of early marriage for women is prevalent in developing countries around the world today, and is believed to cause significant disruption in their accumulation of human capital. This paper develops an overlapping generations model of the marriage market to explain how the practice may be sustained in the absence of any intrinsic preference for young brides. We assume there is a desirable female attribute, relevant for the gains from marriage, that is only noisily observed before a marriage is contracted. We show that, in equilibrium, its prevalence declines with time spent on the marriage market and, thus, age can signal poorer quality and, consistent with the available evidence, require higher marriage payments. Model simulations for the case of Bangladesh show that (i) an intervention that raises the opportunity cost of marriage for adolescent girls can make it more and more attractive for future cohorts to postpone marriage such that its long-term impact on marriage and subsequent life choices may well exceed the impact on the first cohort which is exposed to it; (iii) a small-scale randomised control trial of the same intervention would significantly under-estimate its efficacy by failing to capture equilibrium effects.

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File URL: ftp://ftp.ukc.ac.uk/pub/ejr/RePEc/ukc/ukcedp/1520.pdf
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Paper provided by School of Economics, University of Kent in its series Studies in Economics with number 1520.

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Date of creation: Sep 2015
Handle: RePEc:ukc:ukcedp:1520
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School of Economics, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NP

Phone: +44 (0)1227 827497
Web page: http://www.kent.ac.uk/economics/

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  18. Ambrus, Attila & Field, Erica, 2008. "Early Marriage, Age of Menarche, and Female Schooling Attainment in Bangladesh," Scholarly Articles 3200264, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  19. V. Bhaskar, 2011. "Corrigendum: Sex Selection and Gender Balance," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 252-253, May.
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  23. Sajeda Amin & Luciana Suran, 2009. "Terms of marriage and time-use patterns of young wives – Evidence from rural Bangladesh," electronic International Journal of Time Use Research, Research Institute on Professions (Forschungsinstitut Freie Berufe (FFB)) and The International Association for Time Use Research (IATUR), vol. 6(1), pages 92-108, September.
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