Age of Marriage and Women's Political Engagement: Evidence from India
47 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 23 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 22, 2019
Although decades have passed since most women in the democratic world gained the right to vote and run for elections, a large gender gap in political participation persists, particularly in developing democracies. This short paper considers an important---and heretofore overlooked---factor limiting the political engagement of many women in the developing world: her marriage age. Drawing on nationally representative data from India and instrumenting marriage age with menarche age, we find substantial positive effects of delaying marriage on women’s participation in everyday politics. A standard deviation increase in marriage age makes a woman 26 percent more likely to attend a council meeting, 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 importance of early marriage as a critical barrier to women’s participation in the political sphere.
Keywords: Gender, Politics, India
JEL Classification: D72, F63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation