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Bride price and the wellbeing of women

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  • Sara Lowes
  • Nathan Nunn

Abstract

Bride price, which is payment from the groom and/or the groom’s family to the bride’s family at the time of marriage, is a common cultural practice in many African societies. It is often argued that the practice may have negative effects for girls and women because it may: incentivize early marriage and lead to higher fertility; promote the view that husbands have ‘purchased’ their wives, resulting is worse treatment of wives; and trap women in unhappy marriages due to the common requirement that some of the bride price be paid back upon divorce. We provide evidence towards a better understanding of the effects of bride price by examining the empirical relationship between bride price payments and various outcomes of interest. Examining a sample of 317 couples from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we find no evidence that a larger bride price payment is associated with earlier marriage or with higher fertility. We also find that larger bride price payments are actually associated with better-quality marriages as measured by beliefs about the acceptability of domestic violence, the frequency of engaging in positive activities as a couple, and the self-reported happiness of the wife. We also examine the effect of the requirement for the bride price to be paid back upon divorce and find no evidence that this requirement is associated with women being less happy in their marriages on average. However, we do find that the combination of a very high bride price (over US$1,000) and a requirement to pay back the bride price upon divorce is associated with lower levels of happiness for wives.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Lowes & Nathan Nunn, 2017. "Bride price and the wellbeing of women," WIDER Working Paper Series 131, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2017-131
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nava Ashraf & Natalie Bau & Nathan Nunn & Alessandra Voena, 2016. "Bride Price and Female Education," NBER Working Papers 22417, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alessandra Voena & Lucia Corno, 2015. "Selling daughters: age at marriage, income shocks and bride price tradition," 2015 Meeting Papers 1089, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Platteau, Jean-Philippe & Gaspart, Frederic, 2007. "The Perverse Effects of High Brideprices," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1221-1236, July.
    4. Linguère Mously Mbaye & Natascha Wagner, 2017. "Bride Price and Fertility Decisions: Evidence from Rural Senegal," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(6), pages 891-910, June.
    5. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2016. "Weather Shocks, Age of Marriage and the Direction of Marriage Payments," DISCE - Working Papers del Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza def040, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
    6. David Bishai & Shoshana Grossbard, 2010. "Far above rubies: Bride price and extramarital sexual relations in Uganda," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(4), pages 1177-1187, September.
    7. Siwan Anderson, 2007. "The Economics of Dowry and Brideprice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 151-174, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Chakravarty, Abhishek & Gulesci, Selim, 2016. "The Price of Gold: Dowry and Death in India," IZA Discussion Papers 9679, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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