Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Why Dowries?

26 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2003  

Maristella Botticini

Bocconi University - Department of Economics

Aloysius Siow

University of Toronto - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2003


When married daughters leave their parental home and their married brothers do not, altruistic parents provide dowries for daughters and bequests for sons in order to mitigate a free riding problem between their married sons and daughters. The theory has predictions on the form of the dowry contract, the exclusion of daughters from bequests, and the decline of dowries in previously dowry giving societies. These predictions are consistent with historical evidence from ancient Near Eastern civilizations, ancient Greece, Roman Empire, thirteenth-century Byzantium, western Europe from 500 to 1500 CE, the Jews from antiquity to the Middle Ages, Arab Islam from 650 CE to modern times, China, Japan, medieval and Renaissance Tuscany, early-modern England, modern Brazil, North America, and contemporary India.

Keywords: dowry, brideprice, bequest, free riding, marriage, intergenerational transfers, Tuscany, comparative

JEL Classification: J1, NO, N3

Suggested Citation

Botticini, Maristella and Siow, Aloysius, Why Dowries? (January 2003). Available at SSRN: or

Maristella Botticini (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136

Aloysius Siow

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
416-978-4139 (Phone)
416-978-6713 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Paper statistics

Abstract Views