Keeping It in the Family: Female Inheritance, Inmarriage, and the Status of Women
65 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2018 Last revised: 2 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 15, 2019
While female property ownership is associated with positive outcomes for women, their right to inherit property in male-dominated societies may also result in more constraining marriage and gender norms. I develop and test the following hypothesis: Where a woman inherits property, her male relatives are more likely to arrange her marriage within the same community in order to avoid fragmentation of the land. Arranging the marriage also requires controlling the woman’s relations and mobility, which negatively impacts her economic participation. By analyzing datasets on pre-industrial societies and Indonesian individuals, I find that female inheritance is associated with a higher prevalence of cousin and arranged marriages as well as lower female economic participation and premarital sexual freedom. Using a difference-in-differences design that exploits exogenous variation induced by a reform of inheritance laws in India, I also provide evidence for a causal effect of female inheritance on cousin marriage and female economic participation rates. These findings have implications for the evolution of marriage and gender norms in Islamic societies, where female inheritance is mandated by Islamic law.
Keywords: female inheritance, culture, gender inequality, marriage, female economic participation
JEL Classification: D01, J12, J16, N30, Z12, Z13
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