Age of Marriage and Women's Political Engagement: Evidence from India

52 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 4 May 2020

See all articles by Fenella Carpena

Fenella Carpena

Oslo Business School

Francesca R. Jensenius

NUPI - Norwegian Institute for InternationalAffairs; University of Oslo

Date Written: April 29, 2020


Although decades have passed since most women in the democratic world gained the right to vote and run for election, a large gender gap in political participation persists, particularly in developing countries. This short paper considers an important---and previously overlooked---factor limiting the political engagement of many women in the developing world: marriage age. Drawing on nationally representative data from India and instrumenting marriage age with menarche age, we find delaying marriage has substantial positive effects on women's everyday political participation. A standard deviation increase in marriage age makes a woman 25 percent more likely to attend local council meetings, and 8 percent more likely to discuss politics with her husband. Exploring mechanisms, we show that education and time---rather than employment, mobility, and household decision-making power---appear to be the main channels. These findings underscore the critical role of early marriage in impeding women's participation in the political sphere.

Keywords: Women's Political Participation, Marriage, Menarche, India

JEL Classification: D72, F63

Suggested Citation

Carpena, Fenella and Jensenius, Francesca R., Age of Marriage and Women's Political Engagement: Evidence from India (April 29, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Fenella Carpena (Contact Author)

Oslo Business School ( email )

PO Box 4, St. Olavs plass
Oslo, 0130


Francesca R. Jensenius

NUPI - Norwegian Institute for InternationalAffairs ( email )


University of Oslo ( email )

Moltke Moesvei 31
Olso, Oslo 0851

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