Behind the Veil of Cultural Persistence: Marriage and Divorce in a Migrant Community

88 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2021

See all articles by Catherine Guirkinger

Catherine Guirkinger

University of Namur - Centre de Recherche en Economie du Developpement (CRED)

Jean‐Philippe Platteau

University of Namur

Zaki Wahhaj

University of Kent - Department of Economics; University of Namur; University of Kent - School of Economics

Date Written: July 2021

Abstract

Arranged marriage is a persisting practice in many migrant communities in Western Europe and North America. How can arranged marriages survive in conditions where migrants are exposed to the individualistic values and behavior patterns of the host society, and where divorce is easy and public safety nets are in place is a puzzling question. To answer it, we build a novel theory in which parents and children bargain over the choice of a spouse. We show that, perhaps paradoxically, the possibility of divorce may help preserve arranged marriage. This is especially true for women who are more constrained once married. To test the prediction of the model, we exploit a change in the divorce law in Belgium (introduction of no-fault divorce in 2007). On the basis of two unique sets of data on descendants of Turkish migrants, we find that, in line with the theoretical predictions, men's propensity to marry an imported bride decreases while the same evolution is not observed for women. If anything, the latter's propensity to marry an imported groom has increased. Similarly, men's { but not women's { propensity to divorce decreases following the law change.

Suggested Citation

Guirkinger, Catherine and Platteau, Jean‐Philippe and Wahhaj, Zaki, Behind the Veil of Cultural Persistence: Marriage and Divorce in a Migrant Community (July 2021). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP16347, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3886836

Catherine Guirkinger (Contact Author)

University of Namur - Centre de Recherche en Economie du Developpement (CRED) ( email )

Rue de Bruxelles 61
Namur, 5000
Belgium

Jean‐Philippe Platteau

University of Namur ( email )

8 rempart de la vierge
Namur, 5000
Belgium

Zaki Wahhaj

University of Kent - Department of Economics ( email )

Keynes College
Kent, CT2 7NP
United Kingdom

University of Namur ( email )

8 Rempart de la Vierge
Namur, 5000
Belgium

University of Kent - School of Economics ( email )

CT2 7NP
United Kingdom

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