Across the world, a woman’s marital prospects have important implications forher subsequent life outcomes. Characteristics of the bride and her family at the time of marriage in conjunction with the characteristics of her spouse and his family determinethe conditions of marriage such as dowries, marrying biological relatives, and age atmarriage.
These conditions in turn affect socio-economic outcomes for the woman andher children, including the likelihood that she will have to endure domestic violence, hersocial status in her husband’s home, her school attainment, health status, and her controlover reproductive choices.
Marrying a cousin or uncle, a surprisingly common practicearound the developing world, can decrease the amount of dowry required, but increasesthe risk of genetic diseases among offspring.
Although the literature on the consequences of marriage is large, the evidence onthe determinants of the conditions of spousal matching is mostly qualitative or descriptive(e.g. Fruzzetti, 1982; Huq and Amin, 2001). A few studies account for multiple co-varying determinants of marital prospects, and use cross-sectional regressions onrelatively small samples of survey data from rural India to show that older, taller, moreeducated grooms of high caste living in areas with a larger supply of potential bridescommand larger dowries, and that spouses mate assortatively in age and education.
Thefact that families can offer compensating differentials along many unobservabledimensions in order to secure a desirable match is a significant challenge to empirically
Dalmia, 2004; Rao, 1993; Foster 1998
Jahan, 1991; Tiemoko, 2001; Bloch and Rao, 2002; Wickrama and Lorenz, 2002; Jensen and Thornton,2003; Suran et al, 2004; UNICEF 2005; Field and Ambrus, 2008
In the mainly Muslim countries of West, Central, South Asia and North Africa, marriage between closerelatives account for between 20 and 50 percent of all unions. Cousin marriage appears to be a social normin Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, where about 50% of marriages are between first cousins. Caldwellet al., 1983; Bittles, 1994; Bittles 2001; New York Times 2003, BBC 2005.
Rao, 1993; Deolalikar and Rao, 1998; Dalmia and Lawrence, 2001; Dalmia, 2004