Age of Marriage and Women's Political Engagement: Evidence from India
52 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 4 May 2020
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: Suggested Citation