Purchase - $5.00 NBER Subscribers Download

Bride Price and Female Education

52 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2016  

Nava Ashraf

Harvard Business School

Natalie Bau

University of Toronto

Nathan Nunn

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago

Date Written: July 2016


Traditional cultural practices can play an important role in development, but can also inspire condemnation. The custom of bride price, prevalent throughout sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia as a payment by the groom to the family of the bride, is one example. In this paper, we show a perhaps surprising economic consequence of this practice. We revisit one of the best-studied historical development projects, the INPRES school construction program in Indonesia, and show that previously found small effects on female enrollment mask heterogeneity by bride price tradition. Ethnic groups that traditionally engage in bride price payments at marriage increased female enrollment in response to the program. Within these ethnic groups, higher female education at marriage is associated with a higher bride price payment received, providing a greater incentive for parents to invest in girls' education and take advantage of the increased supply of schools. However, we see no increase in education following school construction for girls from ethnicities without a bride price tradition. We replicate these findings in Zambia, where we exploit a similar school expansion program that took place in the early 2000s. While there may be significant downsides to a bride price tradition, our results suggest that any change to this cultural custom should likely be considered alongside additional policies to promote female education.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

Suggested Citation

Ashraf, Nava and Bau, Natalie and Nunn, Nathan and Voena, Alessandra, Bride Price and Female Education (July 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22417. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2810927

Nava Ashraf (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-5058 (Phone)
617-496-4191 (Fax)

Natalie Bau

University of Toronto

Nathan Nunn

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views