Keeping It in the Family: Female Inheritance, Inmarriage, and the Status of Women

Posted: 18 Sep 2018 Last revised: 21 Aug 2021

Date Written: October 15, 2019


While female property ownership is associated with positive outcomes for women, their right to inherit property in patrlineal societies may also result in more constraining marriage norms. I test the following hypothesis: Where a woman inherits property, her male relatives are more likely to arrange her marriage to a cousin in order to keep her share of property within the male lineage. The increase in unearned income due to female inheritance also reduces women’s economic participation, especially in blue-collar jobs where women’s work is subject to social stigmas. Using a difference-in-differences design that exploits exogenous variation induced by a reform of inheritance laws in India in 2005, the study finds that women exposed to the female inheritance law are more likely to marry their paternal cousins and less likely to work, especially in agriculture. The paper also discusses possible 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

Suggested Citation

Bahrami-Rad, Duman, Keeping It in the Family: Female Inheritance, Inmarriage, and the Status of Women (October 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Duman Bahrami-Rad (Contact Author)

Bowdoin College ( email )

United States

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