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

47 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 23 Oct 2019

See all articles by Fenella Carpena

Fenella Carpena

Oslo Business School

Francesca R. Jensenius

NUPI - Norwegian Institute for InternationalAffairs; University of Oslo

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

Carpena, Fenella and Jensenius, Francesca R., Age of Marriage and Women's Political Engagement: Evidence from India (October 22, 2019). 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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