Natural Shocks and Marriage Markets: Evolution of Mehr and Dowry in Muslim Marriages

58 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017

See all articles by Shyamal Chowdhury

Shyamal Chowdhury

The University of Sydney

Debdulal Mallick

Deakin University - Faculty of Business and Law

Prabal Roy Chowdhury

Jawaharlal Nehru University

Abstract

We examine how mehr, a conditional payment from husbands to wives in the event of divorce, and dowry, a transfer from bride families to grooms at the time of marriage, have evolved through natural shocks. We develop a model of marriage market in which dowry acts as a groom price, whereas mehr serves to deter inefficient divorces. Our comparative statics results show that the value of mehr is increasing (decreasing) in shocks that raise (lower) income while the effect of such shocks on dowry is ambiguous; even if dowry increases (decreases), the magnitude will be smaller than the corresponding increase (decrease) in mehr. We then exploit several natural experiments in Bangladesh, that include the Green Revolution around the 1960s, the Independence War in 1971 and the famine of 1974, to explain fluctuations in the value of mehr and dowry observed in Muslim marriages. Using two household survey datasets in Bangladesh, we find support for our theoretical predictions. To rule out alternative explanations, in particular the effect of legal changes, we exploit another natural experiment from the Indian state of West Bengal that experienced the same natural shocks, but not any of the legal shocks affecting Bangladesh. These results demonstrate that natural shocks may influence the evolution of social institutions.

Keywords: dowry, mehr, Muslim family law, natural shocks, Bangladesh, West Bengal

JEL Classification: J12, O13, Z12

Suggested Citation

Chowdhury, Shyamal and Mallick, Debdulal and Chowdhury, Prabal Roy, Natural Shocks and Marriage Markets: Evolution of Mehr and Dowry in Muslim Marriages. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10675. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2949111

Shyamal Chowdhury (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

Debdulal Mallick

Deakin University - Faculty of Business and Law ( email )

Burwood, Victoria 3215
Australia

Prabal Roy Chowdhury

Jawaharlal Nehru University ( email )

CSDILE, School of International Studies
New Delhi
India

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