How arranged marriage systems cultivates rivalry among sisters…

An interesting paper by Tom Vogl on economics of family and sibling rivalry. This kind of research mixes Gary Becker and Al Roth works .

In this paper he looks at this arranged marriage system in South Asia and focuses on households where you have two sisters. In such a household  parents try and marry off their elder daughter quicker to maintain gap between older and younger sister. This helps find a groom for the younger daughter overtime. In the process, elder daughter is cut off early from school but younger gets more time and ends up ebing more qualified etc. The younger also get a groom who is better educated etc.

Using data from South Asia, this paper examines how arranged marriage cultivates rivalry among sisters. During marriage search, parents with multiple daughters reduce the reservation quality for an older daughter’s groom, rushing her marriage to allow sufficient time to marry off her younger sisters. Relative to younger brothers, younger sisters increase a girl’s marriage risk; relative to younger singleton sisters, younger twin sisters have the same effect. These effects intensify in marriage markets with lower sex ratios or greater parental involvement in marriage arrangements. In contrast, older sisters delay a girl’s marriage. Because girls leave school when they marry and face limited earnings opportunities when they reach adulthood, the number of sisters has well-being consequences over the lifecycle. Younger sisters cause earlier school-leaving, lower literacy, a match to a husband with less education and a less-skilled occupation, and (marginally) lower adult economic status. Data from a broader set of countries indicate that these cross-sister pressures on marriage age are common throughout the developing world, although the schooling costs vary by setting.

Policy implications:

The policy implications of this result depend on the nature of the marriage market and the production function. If schooling has decreasing returns, then the cost of an older sister’s lost time in school is greater than the benefit of her younger sister’s gain. But perhaps more importantly, the theory predicts that the presence of any sister, older or younger, decreases expected spousal quality. 

If grooms attributes are equally valuable to all women, then the results imply a transfer of high quality grooms from large families to small. But if marriages are characterized by match-specific quality, then a large number of daughters per family may cause aggregate mismatch in the marriage market. Along these lines, the findings may provide a new justification for family planning policies (which on average reduce the number of daughters per family and increase the spacing between them), for the promotion of love marriage, or for the development of search technologies (e.g., matchmakers and websites).

Not sure whether people will agree at all to the findings. But frankly, I never really imagined research on these lines. A very different and interesting perspective..

One Response to “How arranged marriage systems cultivates rivalry among sisters…”

  1. dsylexic Says:

    policy implications? cant these busibodies leave family dynamics alone. next -subsidies for the elder child and taxes on the second one.economists are a cause of trouble rather than a source of information

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