Marriage Market Effects of a Wealth Shock in Bangladesh

A. Mushfiq Mobarak*
Yale University

Randall Kuhn
University of Denver

Christina Peters
Metro State College of Denver

Conditions of marriage such as dowries and consanguinity influence women’s subsequent life outcomes. However, research on the determinants of these conditions is largely descriptive. This paper uses a wealth shock from the construction of a flood protection embankment in rural Bangladesh coupled with data on the universe of all 52,000 marriage decisions between 1982 and 1996 to examine changes in marital prospects for protected households after embankment construction relative to unprotected households living on the other side of the river. First we use two-sided matching models with difference-in-difference specifications to describe the changes in the marriage market, and show that protected households commanded larger dowries, married into wealthier families, and became less likely to marry biological relatives. The marriage market becomes more segregated by wealth, but the positive wealth shock does not allow women to delay marriage or reduce spousal age gaps. The same family is 40% less likely to marry a younger child to a cousin after the wealth shock, compared to their older child who married prior to the embankment construction. Second, we try to understand the structural changes that led to this drop in consanguinity, and find that liquidity-constrained households use within-family marriage (where one can promise ex-post payments) as a form of credit to meet up-front dowry demands, and the wealth shock relaxed this need for taking an adverse biological risk.

JEL Codes: O1, J12, O13 Keywords: Marriage, Embankment, Flood Protection, Consanguinity

November, 2009

* Corresponding Author: or 203-432-5787. Address: 135 Prospect Street, P.O. Box 208200, New Haven, CT 06520-8200

1. Introduction Across the world, a woman’s marital prospects have important implications for her 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 determine the conditions of marriage such as dowries, marrying biological relatives, and age at marriage.1 These conditions in turn affect socio-economic outcomes for the woman and her children, including the likelihood that she will have to endure domestic violence, her social status in her husband’s home, her school attainment, health status, and her control over reproductive choices.2 Marrying a cousin or uncle, a surprisingly common practice around the developing world, can decrease the amount of dowry required, but increases the risk of genetic diseases among offspring.3 Although the literature on the consequences of marriage is large, the evidence on the 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 covarying determinants of marital prospects, and use cross-sectional regressions on relatively small samples of survey data from rural India to show that older, taller, more educated grooms of high caste living in areas with a larger supply of potential brides command larger dowries, and that spouses mate assortatively in age and education.4 The fact that families can offer compensating differentials along many unobservable dimensions 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 3 In the mainly Muslim countries of West, Central, South Asia and North Africa, marriage between close relatives account for between 20 and 50 percent of all unions. Cousin marriage appears to be a social norm in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, where about 50% of marriages are between first cousins. Caldwell et al., 1983; Bittles, 1994; Bittles 2001; New York Times 2003, BBC 2005. 4 Rao, 1993; Deolalikar and Rao, 1998; Dalmia and Lawrence, 2001; Dalmia, 2004
2 1


identifying the precise determinants of marriage outcomes in these studies. We exploit the construction of a flood protection embankment in rural Bangladesh coupled with pre and post embankment data on 33,000 marriages in treatment and control villages to examine how a plausibly exogenous change in certain households’ wealth manifests itself in marriage market outcomes such as dowries, socio-economic status of the spouse, age at marriage, and consanguinity (i.e. marrying biological relatives). The flood protection embankment in rural Bangladesh that we study induced a discrete improvement in socio-economic conditions for families living on the embankment side of the river relative to the opposite bank that remained unprotected. The major effect of the embankment was to extend the crop growing season, thereby increasing relative wealth for households on the protected side, though it also may have reduced flood risk exposure. We investigate differential changes in the conditions of marriage for protected households using panel data on the entire universe of marriages across a fourteen-year pre and post-embankment period. Our paper is constructed in two parts. The first part uses stylized two-sided matching models of the marriage market along with difference-in-difference specifications to describe changes in the marriage market following the wealth shock, and documents changes in dowries, spousal socio-economic status, and a drop in marriages between biological relatives. In the second part, we explore structural changes that led to this drop in consanguinity. We find that liquidity-constrained households facing dowry demands used consanguinity as a costly solution for their lack of access to credit to make the up-front dowry payment.


For the first part, the model predicts that the protected are likely to secure better matches only along characteristics that are complementary. For example, if the wealth that a man and woman bring in to a marriage are complementary inputs in generating marital surplus, then the protected would in general choose to (and be able to) marry into wealthier households. If age at marriage is not a complementary input, protection will not necessarily change spousal age or age gaps, since the protected are not willing to pay relatively more than the unprotected for this characteristic.5 Furthermore, if the embankment’s primary contribution is to lower flood risk exposure, then we should observe negative assortative matching in protection post-embankment. The unprotected have the largest marginal gain from bonding with a protected family, and are therefore willing to pay the most to secure that match. A corollary is that the protected should receive larger dowries. Difference-in-difference specifications that explore changes in marriages postembankment show that individuals from protected households experienced a 3 percent higher likelihood of marrying into wealthier households (as measured by land ownership) post embankment relative to those that remained unprotected. The embankment had a larger wealth effect on farmers, and triple difference (pre/post, un/protected, by occupation) results confirm that agricultural households drive this change. Protected men command larger dowries following embankment construction, but there are no significant changes in age at marriage. We also do not find evidence of assortative matching in protection status in either direction. These results provide valuable evidence on how a wealth shock affects marriage markets in a developing society. The marriage markets

However, if age happens to be a relevant consideration for spousal choice, its effect will get capitalized into the dowry transfer, and thus age may bear some relationship to protection status if the embankment changes the ability to pay dowry.


becomes increasingly segregated (beneficiaries of the environmental shock command larger dowries, marry wealthy families and crowd out others). Norms regarding the proper age at marriage and spousal age gaps appear quite inelastic even for those who receive the large positive shock to wealth. This first part of the paper documents general equilibrium effects of an infrastructure commonly constructed in flood-exposed developing countries. The second part of the paper turns to changes in consanguinity – the practice of marrying biological relatives – which is surprisingly common in many parts of Bangladesh, in neighboring India and Pakistan, and more generally in the developing countries of Asia and Africa.6 Such marriages impose adverse biological risk on children in the increased likelihood of receiving two copies of a deleterious gene from parents, which manifests itself in larger child morbidity and mortality rates (Bittles and Makov, 1988; Bittles, 2001; Shah et al., 1998).7 Social scientists have a limited understanding of why so many couples accept these risks, and the wealth shock associated with the embankment provides a unique opportunity to gain further insight into this practice. In difference-in-difference estimates using household fixed effects, protected households show a 3.3 percentage point larger drop (a 40 percent decrease at the mean) in the likelihood of forming consanguineous unions following the construction of the embankment relative to unprotected households living on the other side of the river. Multiple mechanisms can link flood protection to consanguinity prevalence, but our
In the mainly Muslim countries of North Africa, West and Central Asia, and in large parts of South Asia, marriage between close relatives account for at least 20 percent to 50 percent of all unions, with a further 2.8 billion people in countries where 1 percent to 10 percent of marriages are between biological relatives (Bittles et al., 2001; Hashmi, 1997; Khan, 2001; 7 Shah et al. (1998) conclude that when two first-cousins marry, they are 18 percent more likely to experience the death of one of their children before the child is 5 years old. Bittles (2001) reports that child morbidity rates are between 1 percent and 4 percent higher for consanguineous children. Selection issues are generally not adequately addressed in any of these studies.


ancillary evidence indicates that marrying consanguineously reduces the need for dowry payments which are often difficult for brides from poor families to make, and this dowry constraint is relaxed for protected households following embankment construction.8 Since a bride’s parents often do not have either cash on hand or access to credit to make the up-front dowry payment, they use within-family marriage (where it becomes possible to promise ex-post payments) as a form of credit. Triple difference results by gender show that it is protected women who show the larger drop in consanguinity (rather than protected men), which is consistent with this dowry-credit constraint story, since the dowry payment is uni-directional from women to men. The contract theory model in Do, Iyer and Joshi (2009) formalizes this story, and we bring credible evidence to bear on this mechanism by taking advantage of an exogenous environmental shock. In the next two sections, we describe our data and present evidence that the embankment created plausibly exogenous variation in wealth. Section 4 presents twosided matching models of the marriage market to explore how this is expected to affect marriage market behavior. Section 5 empirically describes the changes in the marriage market, and finally section 6 tries to understand the structural changes that led to the large drop in consanguinity.

2. Data and Setting Since 1963, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) has conducted periodic socioeconomic censuses and recorded all vital events

Other possible explanations for which there is less support in the data: (a) Supply Side - unprotected households are possibly “forced into” consanguineous marriages as their external marriage market prospects decline in relative terms, (b) Demand Side - unprotected households may seek mutual insurance by forming a cross-generational bond with another household through consanguinity.



of residents in 148 villages in Matlab district. Residents of this rural area are mostly poor and landless, subsisting off fishing, agricultural labor, and sharecropping. The MeghnaDhonagoda River runs through the middle of the study area, and the Water and Power Development Authority in Bangladesh used external donor funds in 1987 to construct a 65 km embankment along the northwest bank that prevents water overflow and provides systems for pumped drainage and irrigation along the waterway (Strong and Minkin, 1992). The embankment was breached during abnormally high floods in 1987 and 1988, after which it was strengthened and resealed in 1989. Consequently, in the empirical specifications, the pre-embankment period becomes 1982-1986, and the postembankment period covers 1989-1996. Using ICDDR,B’s data, we observe all 33,000 marriages (or 52,000 marriage decisions) of Matlab residents between 1982 and 1996, and we can merge census data from 1982 to these marriage files. We know the age at marriage of each individual and their spouse, any biological relationship between them (i.e. consanguinity status), their wealth, occupation, and location (and therefore embankment protection status). The vital events database also allows us to examine fertility, mortality and migration patterns at monthly intervals for the full sample of households over the entire sample period. We supplement these data with retrospective dowry information, cropping practices, and land value information reported in the 1996 Matlab Health and Socioeconomic Survey. The MHSS cross-sectional dataset covers a random sub-sample of over 4000 households from Matlab and asks all respondents to recall dowries exchanged during past marriage transactions (thus covering marriages both before and after embankment construction). We use the estimated cash value of dowries as reported


by women who are interviewed separately from their husbands. Appendix table A1 lists the variables used in this study and their definitions.

3. What the Embankment Construction Helps Identify The key identifying assumption in our statistical analysis is that the construction of the Meghna-Dhonogoda embankment induced measurable changes in socio-economic status for people resident on the northwest side of the Dhonagoda river in Matlab district, relative to people resident on the other side of that river (see figure 1). Before turning to any marriage outcomes, in this section we explore: (a) whether the embankment construction can be treated as exogenous (i.e. uncorrelated with other coincident changes in events and conditions), and (b) what exactly were the socio-economic changes the embankment effectuated – changes in wealth or risk exposure – that ultimately resulted in changes in the marriage market. The embankment was not designed as a scientifically random experiment. We thus explore in what ways the event falls short of the ideal of a “natural experiment” or strictly “exogenous” change. One potential concern is that people resident on the southeast bank of the river are not an appropriate control group for the “treated” households, since the placement of the embankment on the northwest bank may itself signal some pre-existing differences between the two groups. During fieldwork interviews we conducted in 2006, Matlab residents indicated that the embankment was placed on the north-west side mainly because drainage was worse in that bank prior to embankment construction. Further anecdotal evidence from first-hand witnesses observe complaints of residents that the project was coordinated by


politicians in conjunction with the largest local landowners who actually live in Dhaka (Briscoe, 1998; Kabir 2004). Neither of those groups are part of our sample since they do not live in Matlab district. However, this may indicate possibility of other forms of preferential treatment for the protected side of the river, and we therefore delve into the program evaluation and anthropological literatures to examine these issues. It is possible that agriculture practices are systematically different across the two banks due to drainage differences, although program evaluations of the embankment project report that the geographic areas experienced similar weather patterns, households grew similar crops and reported similar incomes, and demographic distributions were nearly identical. We find no mention of any other significant differences in technology or other construction such as bridges that may have happened to coincide with embankment construction (Strong and Minkin, 1992; Thompson and Sultana, 1996; Briscoe, 1998).9 Descriptive statistics from our own data show that the protected and unprotected groups are similar prior to construction along most observable dimensions (see Table 1). Due to the large sample size, the marriage outcomes of interest are often statistically different across the two groups prior to completion of the embankment, but the magnitude of those differences remains very small. One exception is the baseline consanguinity rate, which is appreciably larger prior to embankment construction on the protected side. However, since our difference-indifference estimates rely on relative changes in marriage outcomes, the most important concern is whether the pre-existing temporal trends were different across the two groups.

Since Matlab is part of a demographic surveillance area run by the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research (ICDDR, B), the population has been exposed to some development programs. Our results are robust to controlling for exposure to the largest of these programs, the Matlab Maternal and Child Health and Family Planning program and the Safe Motherhood Initiative.



We show that protected and unprotected trends in the marriage outcomes of interest prior to embankment construction were not statistically different, and the magnitudes of the differences are very small when compared with the actual embankment effect estimates we present later (see table 2). In fact, the (statistically insignificant) point estimate shows that if anything, consanguinity on the embankment side was increasing relative to the unprotected side (which also means that the relative decrease in consanguinity on the protected side post embankment construction that we will demonstrate will be statistically different from both the zero effect and from its pre-existing trend). Any relative changes in trends post-embankment that our difference-in-difference estimates uncover are therefore not merely a continuation of pre-existing differences in trends. We also conduct falsification exercises on our DID estimates (modeled after Aghion et al. (2008)), which replace the indicator for the actual year of embankment construction with every possible false embankment year of the sample. In other tests, we replace the variable for protection status (indicating which side of the embankment a household is on) with false embankment locations of northern vs. southern villages and the treatment and control groups of the Matlab Maternal and Child Health and Family Planning Program, an experimental program present in the area. These tests for false times and locations all show that statistical impacts are absent in cases where we should not observe them (e.g. there are no statistical differences in behavior across two subperiods other than that of embankment construction), and that the actual embankment effect typically trumps the false embankment effects.10


The t-statistic for the actual program coefficient is greater than the t-statistic for any false program in 100 percent of specifications for consanguinity and 92 percent of specifications for marrying a wealthy spouse (i.e. one owning an above average amount of land). When the actual and false program groups are both included in the same regression, the actual program coefficient is significant at the 10 percent level in 100


Thus, though the embankment may not be a perfectly clean experiment, we have searched for possible threats to the embankment as a source of identification. The results support its use as a plausibly exogenous source of variation in a difference-in-difference setting across the protected and unprotected banks of the river. It is a useful source of variation to examine the effects of changes in wealth and risk exposure on marriage outcomes. Furthermore, the embankment is an infrastructure projects whose effects on the social and economic lives of the village residents are inherently interesting to examine. We next explore the relative changes in wealth and risk exposure it induced. 3.1 Impacts of the Embankment on Income and Risk Frequent flooding in Matlab destroys crops and induces volatility in household income, and the embankment provides security by extending growing seasons and increasing overall farm incomes for protected agricultural households. During fieldwork we conducted in December 2006, Matlab residents often reported that the primary effect of the embankment was to increase the number of crop cycles from only one per calendar year to two or three.11 Consistent with our informal interviews, Matlab data from 1996 indicates that protected rice farmers enjoy almost one extra growing season per calendar year compared to farmers on the other side of the river (t-test significant at the 1 percent level). Thompson and Sultana (1996) mention that the largest effects of flood protection projects should be on monsoon crops, and accordingly, our data shows that protected farmers grow 2-3 times more Aman and Aus paddy (the two varieties grown during the monsoon) per decimal of cultivated land compared to unprotected farmers (t-tests

percent of specifications for consanguinity and 54 percent of specifications for marrying a wealthy spouse. The false program coefficient is only significant in 20 percent of consanguinity specifications and is never significant for marrying a wealth spouse. 11 Previously, water would encroach on the agricultural land for up to 3-5 months per year.


significant at the 5 percent level). Meanwhile, the embankment had no discernible effect on yields for the dry season Boro paddy. Protected farmers should have experienced a substantial wealth effect from these large increases in rice yields. We measure this effect directly by using principal components analysis to construct asset indices for household wealth in 1982 and 1996 (see table 3).12 Compared to unprotected households, protected households experience a greater increase (significant at the 1 percent level) in asset ownership between 1982 (preembankment) and 1996 (post-embankment). Moreover, this change is almost entirely driven by farmers.13 A hedonic regression of the value of land using cross-sectional 1996 data reveals that post-embankment, the unit price of land is over 3000 taka higher per decimal on the protected side.14 Table 4 shows that the variance of assets across households within a village (which would be linked to changes in risk exposure) does not differentially change across the protected or unprotected banks. Consistent with the fieldwork findings, the mean wealth effect of the embankment thus appears to dominate changes in variance. In addition to this wealth effect, the embankment also may have reduced the health risk posed by stagnant floodwaters. Using DID specifications to test the

The index measures household ownership of any combination of the following assets: a radio, a watch or clock, a bicycle, cows, and a hurricane lamp. Data is taken from Matlab DSS (Demographic Surveillance System) 1982 and 1996 household censuses. We compare asset indices for only those households with information in both years. Occupation of household head is kept as reported in 1982. 13 Both landowners and tenant farmer benefited in significant ways, which indicates that the extended growing season on the protected side probably increased both the productive capacity of land as well as the demand for agricultural labor. From Table 3 it may appear that the impact on tenants was larger than on landowners, but this may be due to ‘top coding’. The index measures ownership of particular assets, and is thus ‘capped’ when an individual reports owning all such items. Since the index values for relatively wealthier landlords are more likely to be capped even pre-embankment, the magnitude of the change in their index value is likely to be smaller. 14 Control variables for this regression include total land area under irrigation, distance to nearest market, travel time to nearest market, whether the village has a credit institution, whether the village participates in the MCHFP program, and controls for area under cultivation and cost of cultivation by crop type.



embankment’s effect across different sex-age categories, we find a differentially greater decline for protected households than unprotected households in mortality rates from diarrheal diseases and other water-borne infectious diseases.15 Specifically, adults protected by the embankment are less likely to die from diarrheal diseases (including all adults between 30-35, females between 45-50, and males between 55-60), and protected adult males between 30-35 are less likely to die from infectious diseases.16 In summary, while the embankment may have affected both the mean and variance of outcomes (wealth and risk exposure), both our fieldwork and the data analysis are strongly suggestive the wealth effect is likely the most salient change and the dominant embankment effect for protected Matlab residents. As figure 2a indicates, the embankment is not a soaring barrier that can protect residents from the gushing floodwaters that are an enduring risk to life and property periodically faced by rural Bangladeshis. It is a more modest barrier designed to protect agricultural fields from seasonal variation in water levels that render those fields in-arable during the monsoons. The data on cropping cycles, agricultural yields, land values, wealth by occupation all indicate that the embankment performs this limited function well, and bestows a positive wealth shock on protected households.

4. Effects of the Embankment in Stylized Models of the Marriage Market The wealth and risk effects outlined above may each have very different manifestations in the marriage market. Highly stylized two-sided matching models can

Mortality rates are standardized to the sex and age category population shares of 1983, and we control for exposure to the Matlab Maternal Child Health and Family Planning Program. Results available upon request. 16 As we would expect, for causes of death not directly related to the embankment (such as accidents), we see very small differences in mortality rates between protected and unprotected individuals.


help us understand what effects we expect to observe on a variety of marriage outcomes. Most existing models of the marriage market describe matching functions under the assumption that each person brings a single trait to marriage (e.g. Browning, Chiappori and Weiss 2003, Anderson 2007, Weiss 1997), which makes generating predictions on assortative matching relatively simple (e.g. Bergstrom 1997, Siow 1998, Anderson 2000). We take the following approach to describe matches in a situation where multiple attributes of protection can affect outcomes: 1. We derive analytical predictions on matching in a simplified transferable-utility marriage market where each person has only two discrete attributes – embankment protection status and wealth status. This model helps clarify the basic economic intuition behind the dynamics of a more complicated market. 2. We then relax the assumptions on transferable utility, endow each person with multiple continuous characteristics, and simulate stable matches in a larger marriage market characterized by search frictions. 4.1 A Transferable Utility Model of the Marriage Market Since marriages in Matlab are typically arranged by the families of the groom and bride, we assume that preferences of the bride and her family are grouped together, as are the preferences of the groom and his family. Males and females on the marriage market are indexed by m and f. Each potential spouse has two relevant characteristics: the level of wealth (wf or wm), which can be either high (H) or low (L), and the embankment status (ef or em), which can be either protected (P) or unprotected (U). Each marriage produces an output zfm, and there exists a medium of exchange (such as a dowry payment, which we denote dfm) that can be used to transfer utilities from the bride to the groom. This


assumption (e.g. Weiss 1997, Siow 1998, Anderson 2007) simplifies the matching problem by allowing each person to use zfm in comparing the gains across different types of matches and against the payoff from remaining single. dfm regulates the division between spouses, so that each person’s decision is conveniently split into: (1) choose the match that maximizes the surplus generated from marriage, and (2) choose a value of dfm to split that surplus. The groom’s payoff from the marriage is dfm, while the bride’s payoff is zfm dfm.17 We assume the following general form for zfm: z fm = max(e f , em ) ⋅ Π ( w f , wm ) .

This formulation reflects the fact that embankment protection increases the productivity of land by extending the crop season, which is the principal component of wealth in rural Bangladesh. The embankment also protects from flood risk, and it is most important to have at least one side of the newly joined families be protected, an idea embodied in the max(ef, em) function.18 A woman may gain from starting to live under embankment protection after marriage, and conversely, an unprotected groom’s family may gain from forming a marital bond with a protected family where they can take refuge during a flood. Variables ef, em (which can take on values P and U) and wf, wm (with values H or L) are all assumed to be strictly positive so that greater wealth can be valuable even in the absence of protection. P>U, H>L, and Π f =
∂Π ∂Π and Π m = are positive, so that ∂wm ∂w f

protection and greater wealth are both positive characteristics in the marriage market.


Another reasonable and important formulation of the distribution of gains from marriage assumes Nash bargaining between spouses over the marital surplus (e.g. McElroy and Horney 1981, Rasul 2008), and extends to other forms of bargaining (Manser and Brown 1980). The bargaining solution in turn has implications for spousal choice (McElroy 1990), which is the focus of our analysis here. 18 The max(ef, em) function is an admittedly strong conceptualization of risk mitigation, but the idea is to model the embankment as a substitute characteristic, and the particular form (i.e. the max function) is chosen for convenience. The intuition we develop holds for any form of a substitute characteristic.


Further, we will focus on the case where there are gains to marriage: Π fm > 0 . All couples with any wealth gain from being married relative to remaining single when Π fm > 0 , and for the unprotected there are additional gains from marrying into a

family protected by the embankment. Our task is to uncover a stable set of matches for the four types of men and women in this marriage market, such that no married person would rather be single and that no two people, married or single, would prefer to form a new union. Stability implies a participation constraint for each woman which specifies that her payoff from marriage must be as large as her payoff from remaining single: max(e f , em ) ⋅ Π ( w f , wm ) − d fm ≥ e f ⋅ Π ( w f ,0) . Similarly, the participation constraint for each man requires d fm ≥ em ⋅ Π (0, wm ) . For stable matches, a set of incentive compatability constraints must also be satisfied for each person that specify that the payoff from the chosen match is larger than under alternate matches: max(e f , em ) ⋅ Π ( w f , wm ) − d fm ≥ max(e f , en ) ⋅ Π ( w f , wn ) − d fn , ∀n ≠ m , and d fm ≥ d gm ∀ g ≠ f . Since there are only four types of each gender, the above represents three incentive compatibility constraints for women and a further three for men. A final market clearing condition stipulates that for a match of type f and type m to be feasible in the aggregate, the supply of these types must be equal.
4.2 Solution to the Transferable Utility Model

Under transferable utility and a unique output measure zfm associated with each marriage, the stable assignment is the set of matches that maximizes total output over all


possible assignments.19 It is easy to verify that under complementarity ( Π fm > 0 ), the only stable set of matches is where type (P, H) get matched to type (U, H) of the opposite gender, while (P, L) and (U, L) also form bonds. In other words, we observe positive assortative matching in wealth, but negative assortative matching in protection status. In order to illustrate why these matches are optimal, it is useful to derive the result assuming a market structure where the women can bid for the men and are the residual claimant of the marital surplus generated (the results are analogous when men bid). The maximum willingness to pay for a (P, H) man by each type of woman is as follows:
PH By a (P, H) woman, WTPPH = P ⋅ Π ( H , H ) − P ⋅ Π ( H ,0) PH By a (P, L) woman, WTPPL = P ⋅ Π ( L, H ) − P ⋅ Π ( L,0) PH By a (U, H) woman, WTPUH = P ⋅ Π ( H , H ) − U ⋅ Π ( H ,0)

PH By a (U, L) woman, WTPUL = P ⋅ Π ( L, H ) − U ⋅ Π ( L,0)
PH PH PH PH Since P>U, WTPUH > WTPPH and WTPUL > WTPPL . This is because a protected

man offers greater value added to an unprotected woman than he does to a protected woman, and the unprotected woman will therefore be willing to outbid the protected
PH PH woman. Also, WTPUH > WTPUL when Π mf > 0 . Under complementarity in the

husband’s and wife’s wealth, a wealthy woman gains greater surplus from a wealthy man than does a low wealth woman, and will therefore be willing to outbid her. Thus the (U, H) woman can outbid all other types of women in order to match with a (P, H) man. The above implies that a (P, H) man will be feasible for a (U, H) woman. For this match to occur in equilibrium, we also need to demonstrate that the (U, H) woman wants

This result is derived in Weiss (1997), pp. 100-101, and in Browning, Chiappori and Weiss (2005), chapter 8.


the (P, H) man – that a marriage to this man generates more surplus for her than a marriage to any other man. If the (P, H) - (U, H) match is surplus maximizing, then we can find a transfer dfm such that the (U, H) woman and (P, H) man are better off under this match than under any other pairing. This is easily established, as we can use the
PH PL assumptions P>U, Π m > 0 , Π f > 0 , and Π fm > 0 to show that WTPUH exceeds WTPUH ,

UH UL WTPUH , and WTPUH . In other words, a protected, high-wealth woman’s desire for an

unprotected high-wealth man exceeds her desire for any other type of man. Analogous arguments establish that (P, H) type women have the highest willingness to pay for (U, H) type men, and achieve the largest surplus from those matches. So for both men and women, all matches are of the form (P, H) - (U, H). Once all these (P, H) - (U, H) men and women are paired up, the remaining (U, L) women in the market place the highest bid for (P, L) men (their surplus maximizing choice). So the remaining matches for both men and women are of the form (P, L) - (U, L).20 The general result highlighted by this model is that we should observe positive assortative matching in men’s and women’s characteristics that are complements (such as wealth) and negative assortative matching in characteristics that are substitutes (such as protection status). Although the transfer payments from wives to husbands are not precisely pinned down in the general model (the participation and incentive compatibility constraints only place upper and lower bounds on the feasible values of dfm), we can also predict changes in dowries following embankment construction under specific market structures, such as the case where women bid for men in a multi-unit English auction

These are results for a monogamous society with equal numbers of men and women of each type. Note that H-type women can typically outbid L-type women, and if there are an excess of H-type women (over H-type men) in the market, then we will observe some (U, H) women marrying (P, L) men (and (P, H) marrying (U, L)), which will in turn force some L-type women to remain single.


setting. If there are multiple (U, H) women bidding for the same (P, H) man, the women would compete away the entire surplus generated by this man, and dowry payments would increase with protection status after embankment construction, since the man’s contribution to the total marital surplus increases with his protection status.
4.3 Embankment Effects in a Simulated Gale and Shapley (1962) Matching Model

We now relax a number of the restrictive assumptions made in the model outlined above and simulate the dynamics of matching in a more general model. Potential spouses can offer compensating differentials along multiple dimensions in order to secure a desirable match. For example, a family could make up any deficiency in its relative wealth position by offering their candidate at the age most desirable by the opposite sex, or accepting a candidate of a less desirable age. Thus, we now endow each candidate with a continuous characteristic that is complementary to embankment protection (such as the amount of land or wealth), another continuous characteristic relevant to spousal choice which is neither a complement nor a substitute to protection (e.g. age at marriage), a discrete protection status, and an idiosyncratic attractiveness parameter. A male m’s payoff from marrying a female f is postulated to be:
f f s m = max(e f , em ) ⋅ Π ( w f , wm ) + α − β (a f − a * ) 2 + ε m f




e is embankment protection status, w is wealth, a is age, a * (a constant) is the most f
f desired female age at marriage from a man’s perspective, ε m is the idiosyncratic pair-

specific attractiveness parameter that measures male m’s preference for female f, and α and β are constants. Greater wealth and protection status are considered attractive characteristics, and wealth is complementary to protection (e.g. the embankment extends the crop growing season). The insurance benefits of the embankment make the


husband’s and wife’s protection status substitutes. Candidates are penalized if their age at marriage differs from some optimal age at marriage. Female f has an analogous scoring function over each male m that she uses to evaluate which proposal to accept:
* s m = max(e f , em ) ⋅ Π ( w f , wm ) + α − β (a m − a m ) 2 + ε m f f




With a total of M men and F women on the market, we can use (1) and (2) to define an M x F matrix of scores over all men and women. Since we cannot describe analytical solutions to the matches that occur, we simulate the matches by endowing 2500 men and 2500 women with a distribution of wealth, age, protection and attractiveness characteristics. We assume that initially each individual gets an independent draw on wealth from a truncated normal distribution over positive support, a draw on age from a uniform distribution (on support 16-22 for women with an optimal age at marriage, a * of f
* 19, and on support 21-27 for men, with am =24), and a draw on preferences for each

individual of the opposite gender from a normal (0,1) distribution. Half of all men and all women are randomly assigned to each bank of a river with an embankment on only one side. We add search frictions to this model by assuming that individuals are more likely to see (and propose to) others on the market who are physically closer to them. The Gale and Shapley (1962) algorithm identifies the stable set of matches in this market.21 Results of the matching simulation show that for both protected men and women, the wealth (land) distribution of spouses they match with shifts to the right following embankment construction (see figure 3). Conversely, the wealth distribution of spouses shifts to the left for men and women on the other bank of the river (who remain

In the Gale and Shapley (1962) algorithm, men propose their most preferred woman, and the woman holds on to the most attractive man while rejecting the rest. The men then propose to their next best option, and so on …, producing a stable set of matches where no two man and woman not paired to each other through the algorithm would be better off by contracting that marriage.


unprotected) following embankment construction. Thus, the protected are able to secure wealthier spouses at the expense of the unprotected. Individuals residing on the two sides of the river are in direct competition in the marriage market, and this result comes about because (a) the protected have an extra desirable characteristic to offer, so their offers are more likely to be accepted and (b) due to complementarity in protection status and land, they are more likely to extend offers of marriage to higher-wealth individuals. For age at marriage, where no such complementarity exists, figure 4 shows that there no clear trend to indicate that the protected are better able to secure partners at the “optimal” age, or reduce spousal age gaps. Complementarity in inputs is therefore key to understanding the potential effects of the embankment on the variety of possible marriage outcomes. The model also exhibits negative assortative matching in the substitute characteristic – protection status. Within-bank marriages are less likely to occur after embankment construction, even with cross-bank search frictions (figure 5). Although dowries are not well defined in this non-transferable utility model, figure 6 plots the surplus accruing to matched men and women if the marital surplus (over the payoff from remaining single) is divided between spouses according to Nash bargaining. The distribution of surpluses shifts to the right for both protected men and women. Since the dowry payment would be a positive function of the difference between the man’s surplus and woman’s surplus, when protected men (women) marry unprotected women (men), dowry payments increase (decrease). This result would also be predicted by a model where the embankment is thought to shift spousal threat points (McElroy 1990). For protected-protected matches, the prediction on dowry payments is not clear.


Thus, our simulated matching model generates predictions consistent with the results of our analytical model: 1. If the embankment mitigates risk, then we should observe more cross-river marriages after embankment construction. Search frictions across the river may dampen this effect. 2. Positive wealth or health benefits conferred by the embankment that are complementary across spouses should lead to positive assortative pull by protection status. Characteristics independent of the embankment (such as age) should remain unaffected. 3. In general, the level of dowry received by protected men should increase following embankment construction.

5. Empirical Results 5.1 Basic Estimation Strategy

Our difference-in-difference set-up compares the marriage market outcomes for protected households following embankment construction to their pre-embankment outcomes, after differencing out the corresponding change in unprotected household outcomes.22 We include household fixed effects where possible, which controls for household-specific unobservable preferences such as heterogeneous attitudes toward risk. In this case, each observation becomes a household experiencing at least one marriage before and at least one marriage after embankment construction (e.g. for two different daughters).23 It is


We aggregate time of marriage into 2 periods, pre and post embankment construction, which avoids inconsistent standard errors due to possible serial correlation in outcomes (Bertrand et al., 2004). 23 We check whether this is a selected sample in the sense that households with multiple marriages may have higher fertility than other households. However, there are no substantial pre-embankment differences


important to note that the empirical results presented next do not constitute a direct test of the models developed in the previous section, but jointly the theory and the empirical results help us sensibly describe the changes in the marriage market following embankment construction.
5.2 Household Responses to Changes in Risk Exposure

We first examine whether marriage outcomes respond to the embankment in ways that are consistent with the construction reducing exposure to flood risk. For risk averse individuals the embankment may lower their demand for mitigating risk through other channels (e.g. marrying daughters into geographically distant households not subject to the same weather patterns or planting different crops, a la Rosenzweig and Stark, 1989). We would then expect to see changes in female migration patterns for marriage following embankment construction. Difference-in-difference results from table 5 find no evidence of such behavior, in that female marriage migration rates into households outside their own villages or outside the Matlab area do not differentially change following embankment construction for women from protected households. Further, the theoretical model showed that if risk mitigation benefits of the embankment were an important consideration, then we would expect to see negative assortative matching in protection status. The last two columns of table 5 (and the last column of table 10) show no evidence of assortative matching by embankment protection in either direction.24 In general, households are much more likely to marry others who

in family size between the fixed effects sample and the full sample (see Appendix table A2). The average age of males in the fixed effects sample is a few years younger than in the full sample, but we estimate our fixed effects models both with and without controls for gender and birth order of the observation, plus the gender and number of their siblings. 24 Given the occupational distribution in villages across Matlab district, households living in southern villages would match with households likely engaged in a different occupation when marrying across the river, but the same is not true in the more homogenous northern villages. The last two columns of table 5


are located closer to them (see the coefficients on “protected” in table 5), an indication of search frictions in the marriage market, but this propensity to marry close does not differentially change after embankment construction. This highlights the possibility that empirical results on assortative matching based on cross-sectional data may be uninformative, since it is difficult to separate out search frictions from true assortative matching in cross-sectional data. Our panel data, which allows us to control for both “protected” and “post*protected” (labeled “embankment”) helps resolve the issue. In table 6, we do find that protected households become 4-5 percentage points less likely to marry into different occupations following embankment construction, an indication that some households use the marriage market to diversify income risk. This result may merely indicate assortative matching in wealth rather than response to risk if the correlation is driven by rich protected farmers marrying other rich protected farmers following embankment construction. However, the last two columns indicate otherwise; the correlation is entirely driven by households engaged in non-farming occupations. In summary, the embankment does not differentially change households’ propensity to diversify and hedge against risk through marriage along most dimensions, which is further evidence that changes in risk exposure is not the dominant effect of the embankment. Non-farmers on the protected side (who did not experience the agricultural wealth shock) are less likely to occupationally diversify through marriage. This could be a response to lowered risk exposure, or because non-farmers find it more difficult to marry into now-wealthier farming households around them.

show that households in the north and south do not behave any differently in terms of marrying across the river following embankment construction, another indication of no differential change in risk mitigation behavior.


5.3 Household Responses to the Wealth Shock

If protected households become wealthier following embankment construction and can offer “protection” as a desirable marriage market characteristic, then the matching model predicts that such households would seek out better spousal characteristics that are complementary to their own in producing marital surplus (e.g. socio-economic status), but not necessarily characteristics which are not complementary. Since land is the primary asset for Matlab households, we measure a spouse’s socioeconomic status according to the amount of land owned by the head of the household in 1982.25 We also look for effects on changes on age at marriage and spousal age gaps. Protected households become 3 percentage points more likely to marry into households with above average amounts of land after embankment construction relative to the unprotected (a 10 percent increase from their pre-embankment likelihood of 32 percent, see table 7). The direction of this change is robust to including household fixed effects, although the effect becomes statistically weaker when the identification comes from multiple marriages before and after embankment construction in the same household.26 Furthermore, a triple difference in table 7 confirms that the effects are entirely driven by protected farmers, who experienced the largest gain in assets between 1982 and 1996 and are the primary beneficiaries of embankment construction. Protected farmers (who form 58 percent of our sample) exhibit a 5.3 percentage point increase in


Our data observes the amount of land owned by a household only if it lies within the surveillance area, so this specification cannot include any household marrying outside Matlab. The marriage migration results discussed earlier do not find evidence of differential post-embankment marriage migration rates across protected and unprotected households (see Table 5), so a sample excluding these migrants should not yield biased estimates of the embankment effect. 26 This is not altogether surprising, since the quality of the first child’s marriage has an important effect on the likelihood of finding quality spouses for subsequent children’s marriage, which lends some inelasticity to the quality of marriages across siblings within the same family (which is the type of variation the fixed effects models use).


the propensity to marry into wealthy households (a 16 percent increase at the mean) following embankment construction relative to unprotected farmers, whereas the effect among non-farmers is essentially zero. In order to establish that our results are not crucially dependent on data from the years farthest after embankment construction, we include additional specifications that eliminate the last three years of the sample (the post-embankment years then become 1989-1993). This limited sample does not alter the results (in fact, makes them stronger), supporting embankment construction as the cause of a discrete one-time change in socioeconomic conditions for the protected. Consistent with theory, we find no effect of the embankment on either age at marriage or spousal age gaps, which we interpret as independent (i.e. not complementary or substitute) characteristics in the marriage market. The coefficient signs are indicative that both protected men and women are able to differentially delay marriage, but these age effects are statistically indistinguishable from zero (see table 8). Tobit models in table 9 regress each woman’s report of dowry payment from the 1996 MHSS data as a function of husband’s embankment protection status. Comparing the “Protected Husband” and “Year*Protected” coefficients, we see that protected men start receiving larger dowries than unprotected men in 1989 or 1990 (the beginning of the post-embankment period) for all specifications.27 The “premium” that protected men command in the years after embankment construction is quite larger - roughly 40% of the average value of dowries in the entire sample.


For example, in the first specification in Table 9, the coefficient on “Year*Protected”, +128.6, multiplied by 1989, equals +255785, which just exceeds the coefficient on “Protected Husband” (-255708)


We check that our results are not generated by the endogenous sorting of households around the embankment after construction. 5 percent of our sample migrates to another area in Matlab during the post-embankment period for a reason other than marriage, and re-estimating the models without these migrants does not qualitatively change the results (see Appendix table A3).28 In addition, our results are robust to exclusion of marriage observations that end in divorce and to the exclusion of nonMuslims, who follow different marriage customs and face a narrower market.

6. Effects on Consanguinity

Although the biological and genetic risks for the offspring of the union of biologically close relatives are well understood in the scientific community, consanguineous marriages remain common practice in much of the developing world (Grant and Bittles, 1997; New York Times, 2003). While the rates of consanguinity are falling over time in both protected and unprotected households in Matlab, table 10 shows the drop is much larger among protected households after the embankment is built. In the difference-in-difference, protected households show a 2.5 percentage point greater decrease in the likelihood of marrying a biological relative (i.e. second cousin or closer) after the embankment over and above the change among the unprotected. In the household fixed effects specification controlling for gender and birth order effects, we find that the same family is 40% (about 3 percentage points) less likely to marry a


Strong and Minkin (1992) also analyze migration data before and after construction to conclude that there exist no real changes in outmigration rates for either the protected or unprotected areas.


younger child to a biological relative after they are protected by embankment, than their older child who married prior to the embankment construction.29 There are several possible conceptual links between the embankment and rates of consanguinity. First, if consanguinity is a desirable marriage outcome based on cultural or religious preferences, then protected households experiencing a positive wealth shock from the embankment may become more able to attract (or pay for) such marriages. This theory is rejected by our difference-in-difference results showing differential decreases in consanguinity following embankment construction rather than increases. Other possible motivations for consanguinity are consistent with these results. For instance, if consanguinity is an inferior marriage outcome, protected households, with the additional attractive characteristic they offer on the marriage market, may be more likely to avoid this outcome. Consanguinity may also be a response to risk exposure if households prefer to marry cousins in order to form robust inter-generational bonds with the extended family.30 Finally, it has been postulated that households marry within the family in South Asia in order to avoid large dowry payments at the time of marriage (Caldwell et al., 1983; Bittles, 1994; Do, Iyer and Joshi 2009). This last link must be a little more complicated, since one must explain why a rational male would forego larger dowry payments in the outside market in order to marry his female cousin. Do, Iyer, and Joshi (2009) develop a model predicting that dowry and consanguinity act as substitutes to mitigate a marriage market failure— in a patrilocal marriage market, the bride’s family has no incentive to continue investing in the couple once they are married and may
29 30

Fixed effect logit models produce similar results. Do, Iyer, and Joshi (2009) present empirical evidence rejecting these alternative theories of consanguinity (as a preferred cultural outcome, or as a risk mitigation measure).


instead choose to free-ride on investments by the groom’s family. The authors outline an optimal tradeoff between dowries (pre-marital transfers) and consanguinity (close family ties) that can help overcome this problem. One implication of their model is that in the presence of tight credit markets, dowries will become more costly relative to consanguinity. In this case, we should expect to see higher levels of consanguinity among poorer families, since credit constrained households who cannot borrow to pay dowries at the time of marriage may use consanguinity as a way to delay payments. The promise to pay over a longer period is more credible when made within the family. Consistent with this hypothesis, while the MHSS data shows that the dowry transfer at the time of marriage is much smaller in consanguineous unions (see table 9), conversations with Matlab residents during our fieldwork indicated the total amount of effective dowry transfer over the course of the marriage may not be any different. In order to identify these effects further, we look for additional ancillary evidence in favor of the credit constraint story above as a motivation for consanguinity that explains its link to the embankment. The embankment, by increasing wealth on the protected side, relaxed the liquidity constraint (in the sense that these now wealthier households had more dowry to offer at the time of marriage), taking away this important motivation for marrying within the family. We first show that the dowry transfer at the time of marriage is almost 50% lower at the mean in consanguineous unions (see table 9). Second, we show that the drop in consanguinity following embankment construction is much larger among protected females than among protected males (see table 11). Since dowries are paid by the brides’ families (and not the grooms’), then we can take advantage of a triple difference by gender, since we would expect consanguinity rates to


drop among protected females relatively more than males if the dowry payment and credit constraint story is correct. The same protected family is up to 4.7 percentage points less likely to marry their younger daughter to her cousin after embankment construction relative to her older sibling, while for males, this drop is only about half as large and not significantly different from zero in the fixed effects specifications.

7. Conclusion

Although the placement of the embankment may not be entirely random, it provides plausibly exogenous variation to examine the determinants of conditions of marriage through more rigorous empirical analysis than had been possible previously in the large literatures on marriage in sociology and in economics. The first part of the paper documents the following changes in marriage markets following wealth gains that accrue to a subset of Matlab residents: 1. There is increasing segregation in the marriage market in terms of spousal wealth. Members of farming households who benefit from the wealth shock are differentially more likely to marry into wealthy households, and non-farmers living on the protected side of the river find it increasingly difficult to marry into the nowwealthier farming households. 2. Men from these protected (wealthier) households start commanding larger dowries. 3. Neither women nor men from protected households are able to delay marriage. Nor are they able to marry younger spouses. Norms regarding age at marriage appear much more inelastic compared to the quicker changes in spousal socio-economic status that we document.


The second part of the paper establishes that the practice of marrying biological relatives appears to be closely linked to the institution of dowry. Rural Bangladeshi households engage in consanguinity in response to the absence of credit for paying dowries at the time of marriage. With the high prevalence of consanguinity in South Asia, Middle East and North Africa it is important to understand the underlying socioeconomic drivers of this practice. The triple difference created by the embankment construction (by gender, protected side of river, pre/post) allowed us to bring credible empirical evidence to bear on this important question for the first time. The high child morbidity and mortality effects of consanguinity reported in the literature imply that liquidity constraints and lack of access to credit impose yet another costly burden on poor households in developing countries through their marriage market choices. Finally, our paper documents the general equilibrium changes associated with an infrastructure project in disaster mitigation. Evaluation of such projects typically focus on direct impacts on ecosystem equilibrium, agricultural practices and incomes, and health (e.g. Haque and Zaman, 1993; Myaux et al., 1997; Paul, 1995; Thompson and Sultana, 1996), and we show that indirect general equilibrium changes can be quite substantial, and need to be taken into account in program evaluation.


Figure 1: Matlab Surveillance Area, the River and the Embankment

Figure 2a: The Embankment: Not Very High and Reinforced with Sandbags

Figure 2b: Protected Bank from the Top of the Embankment: Agricultural Fields Very Close to the Embankment

The light colored (green) polygons are villages, the blue (double) line is the river, and the red line is the embankment


Figure 3: Land Distribution of Spouses of Protected and Unprotected Men in the Simulated Gale-Shapley Marriage Market


Figure 4: Age Distribution of Spouses for Protected Men and Women in the Simulated Gale-Shapley Marriage Market

Panel A: Spousal Age Gap

Panel B: Age at Marriage


Figure 5: Assortative Matching in Protection Status in the Simulated Model Low Search Friction in Marriage Market: qb = 0.90 (probability of seeing a partner on the same bank) qs = 0.50 (probability of seeing a partner on the opposite bank)

Same Side of River Matches Across the River Matches

Before Embankment 64% 36%

After Embankment 30% 70%

With Greater Search Friction in Marriages Across the River: (qb = 0.95, qs = 0.30)

Same Side of River Matches Across the River Matches

Before Embankment 78% 22%

After Embankment 42% 56%

Figure 6: Nash Bargaining Surplus for Men and Women Pre and Post Embankment


Table 1: Descriptive Statistics
Full Sample (ICDDR Matlab Demographic Surveillance Area)

Before Embankment Mean: protected unprotected Percentage of Consanguineous Marriages .081** .067** (.01) (.00) Female Age at Marriage 19.02 19.04 (.06) (.05) Male Age at Marriage 26.93 25.71 (.15) (.10) Household Land Owned (1982) 11.12*** 10.28*** (.23) (.15) Land Owned by Spouse's Household (1982) 10.82** 9.89** (.31) (.31) Percentage of Marriages to Spouse from outside Matlab .478*** .576*** (.01) (.00) Percentage of Marriages to Spouse from outside Village .864*** .880*** (.00) (.00) Total Marriage Observations 5225 11050

After Embankment protected unprotected .044*** .059*** (.00) (.00) 19.90 19.84 (.06) (.04) 27.33*** 25.96*** (.12) (.08) 11.44*** 10.64*** (.19) (.13) 11.13*** 10.22*** (.27) (.20) .512*** .597*** (.01) (.00) .882*** .895*** (.00) (.00) 8438 17896

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates t-test significant at 1%, **indicates significant at 5% level. Pre indicates 1985-1986 for consanguinity and 1982-1986 for all other variables. Post indicates 1989-1996.

MHSS 1996 Sample Pre Post protected unprotected protected unprotected .11 .12 .42 .43 (.01) (.01) (.04) (.02) 576.08 575.27 4077.90 4193.57 (83.88) (46.82) (487.01) (378.62) 389.47 524.73 5708.33* 3658.67* (113.34) (109.60) (1310.88) (561.12) 1119 2543 182 422

Mean: Percentage of Men Receiving Dowry Value of Dowry Received by Men Value of Dowry Received by Men in Consanguineous Marriages Total Marriage Observations

Standard errors in parentheses. * indicates t-test significant at 10% level. Pre indicates 1982-1986; Post indicates 1989-1996. Data taken from 1996 MHSS.


Table 2: No Pre-existing Differences in Trends in Marriage Outcomes by Protection Status
Consanguineous Marriage? Coeff. ME Spouse Owns Above Average Amount of Land? Coeff. ME Spouse from Different Village? Coeff. ME Spouse from Outside Matlab? Coeff. ME

Protected Year Protected * Year Land Owned Above Avg. Amount of Land Age at Marriage R-squared Total obs. Sample

-2.553 -.254 (8.164) -.280*** -.037 (.056) .031 .004 (.096) -.002 -.000 (.002)

-2.579 (2.223) .001 (.016) .031 (.026) .144*** (.035)

-.656 .000 .011

-2.893 (1.784) .012 (.012) .034 (.021) .003*** (.001)

-.772 .003 .001 .001

-1.525 (1.414) .002 (.010) .015 (.017) .002*** (.001)

-.549 .001 .006 .001


.011 7130

.003 .002 6199 14938 Pre-Embankment Years (1982-1986) Only

.006 14946

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates t-test significant at 1% level. All models estimated using probit. All specifications include preembankment years 1982-1986 only. Marginal effects calculated at means of explanatory variables.


Table 3: Effect of the Embankment on Wealth
Asset Indices Pre-embankment Protected Unprotected -.05*** .05*** (.02) (.01) 3377 7270 -.48 -.44 (.03) (.02) 552 1179 .07*** .16*** (.03) (.02) 1530 3207 -.06*** .03*** (.01) (.01) 5459 11656 Post-embankment Protected Unprotected .38 .38 (.02) (.02) 3377 7270 .03*** -.21*** (.04) (.03) 552 1179 .33*** .42*** (.02) (.02) 1530 3207 .33 .33 (.01) (.01) 5459 11656 Difference Protected Unprotected .43*** .34*** (.02) (.02) 3377 7270 .50*** .23*** (.05) (.03) 552 1179 .26 .26 (.03) (.02) 1530 3207 .39*** .30*** (.02) (.01) 5459 11656

Farmers (Landowners) Obs. Farmers (Tenant) Obs. Non-Farm Occupations Obs. All Occupations Obs.

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates t-test significant at 1% level; ** indicates significance at 5% level. Asset index constructed using principal components factor analysis, and measures household ownership of any combination of the following assets: radio, watch or clock, bicycle, cows, and hurricane lamp. Data taken from Matlab DSS 1982 and 1996 household censuses.


Table 4: Changes in the Variance in Assets across Households within Village Following Embankment Construction
Within-Village Variance in Assets Pre-embankment Post-embankment .87 .91 (.04) (.04) 32 1.02 (.04) 93 .96 (.02)

Protected Obs. Unprotected Obs.

Each observation is a village in Matlab, and the table reports the variance in assets across households within a village. Only villages with >80% of land on one side of the embankment or the other are included.

Table 5: Location of Spouse does not Change Differentially after Embankment
Spouse from Outside Matlab Coeff. ME -.247*** -.098 (.021) .053*** .021 (.015) .031 .012 (.027) .006 42609 Spouse from Different Village Coeff. ME -.075*** -.015 (.027) .082*** .016 (.020) .002 .000 (.034) .002 42596 Marrying Across the River Northern Villages Coeff. ME 1.06*** .381 (.051) .009 .003 (.041) .012 .004 (.066) .116 7662 Southern Villages Coeff. ME 1.28*** .470 (.046) -.040 -.015 (.040) .028 .011 (.060) .175 8596

Protected Post Embankment R-squared No. of obs.

Table 6: …but Unprotected Households More Likely to Marry into Different Occupations
Marrying into Different Occupation - Full Sample Diff-in-Diff Coeff. ME .150*** .051 (.041) -.019 -.001 (.031) -.124** -.044 (.053) .080 12338 Household FE Coeff. Marrying into Different Occupation - Farmers/Non-Farmers Farmers Coeff. ME .131 .006 (.080) .067 .003 (.064) .06 .001 (.100) .016 5983 Non-Farmers Coeff. ME .187*** .074 (.052) .078 .031 (.040) -.128* -.051 (.067) .001 6355

Protected Post Embankment R-squared Total obs.

.014 (.026) -.056 (.037) .003 3112

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates significance at 1% level; ** indicates significance at 5% level; * indicates significance at 10% level. All models estimated using probit. Marginal effects calculated at means of explanatory variables.


Table 7: Protected Households Differentially More Likely to Marry Into Wealthier Households after Embankment Construction
Spouse Land Ownership Full .871** (0.41) 0.273 (0.317) 0.082 (0.528) .073*** (0.008) Ex. Top 5% Landowners .851** (0.41) 0.208 (0.317) 0.035 (0.528) .103*** (0.013) Full (1982 - 1996) Coeff. ME .062* 0.022 (0.035) -0.025 -0.009 (0.027) .080* 0.029 (0.044)

Dependent Variable: Sample: Protected Post Embankment (Protected*Post) Land Owned Above Avg. Amount of Land R-squared Total obs.

Spouse Owns Above Avg. Land Ex. Last 3 years (1982 - 1993) Coeff. ME .064* 0.023 (0.035) -0.023 -0.008 (0.029) .108** 0.039 (0.048) Farmers Coeff. ME 0.001 0 (0.044) -0.034 -0.012 (0.035) .143** 0.053 (0.058) Non-Farmers Coeff. ME .139** 0.048 (0.055) -0.022 -0.008 (0.042) 0.007 0.003 (0.07)

0.006 15649

0.005 15047

.202*** (0.022) 0.006 15649


.115*** (0.025) 0.003 12659


.159*** 0.058 (0.028) 0.004 9075

.237*** 0.084 (0.041) 0.007 6425

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates significance at 1% level; ** indicates significance at 5% level; * indicates significance at 10% level. DID indicates difference-in-difference; ME indicates marginal effects (calculated at means of explanatory variables); FE indicates fixed effects. DID Above Avg. Land estimated using probit; all other models estimated using OLS.


Table 8: The Embankment has Weaker Effects on Age at Marriage
Dependent Variable: Age at Marriage Females Males DID FE DID FE -.028 .215 (.091) (.182) .801*** 1.423*** 1.248*** 1.267*** (.066) (.096) (.131) (.201) .086 .116 .158 .391 (.116) (.169) (.231) (.363) Spouse Age at Marriage Age Gap Female Spouses Male Spouses Male Spouses DID FE DID FE DID ME FE -.067 -.051 -.056* -.019 (.095) (.127) (.033) .675*** .846*** .159* .632*** .009 .024* .003 (.068) (.120) (.089) (.159) (.023) (.013) .012 -.095 -.013 -.257 .046 .003 .015 (.119) (.212) (.156) (.274) (.040) (.022) .321*** .343*** .676*** .659*** -.051*** -.008*** -.017 (.004) (.009) (.008) (.021) (.002) (.002) .310 .316 .224 .204 .018 .012 17362 6145 22479 8680 22749 8680 2575 3602 3602

Protected Post Embankment Age at Marriage R-squared Total obs. Number of groups

.010 24349

.023 9914 4037

.008 18255

.010 6781 2804

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates significance at 1% level; * indicates significance at 10% level. DID Age Gap estimated using probit; all other models estimated using OLS. Fixed Effects models include household fixed effects.

Table 9: Husbands from Families Protected by the Embankment Command Larger Dowries after 1989:
Dependent Variable: Protected Husband Year Year * Protected Husband Age at Marriage Consanguineous Marriage Consan. (Maternal Relative) Consan. (Paternal Relative) R-squared Total obs. Dowry paid by Women -255708.2***-244390.2***-242281.9*** (83419.0) (83769.6) (83753.4) 733.9*** 738.9*** 740.6*** (25.8) (26.0) (26.0) 128.6*** 122.9*** 121.8*** (42.2) (42.3) (42.3) -544.9*** -547.6*** -560.1*** (55.9) (56.2) (56.3) -2346.8*** (596.1) -2521.7** (1128.2) -1698.9* (949.9) .045 .046 .046 5699 5674 5674

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates significance at 1% level; ** indicates significance at 5% level; * indicates significance at 10% level. All models are tobit and use 1996 MHSS data.


Table 10: Rates of Consanguinity Drop in Protected Households
Consanguinity Protected Spouse DID DID FE FE DID Coeff. ME Coeff. ME Coeff. ME .089* .090* 1.194*** .011 .011 .437 (.047) (.047) (.034) -.070** -.069** -.010* -.014** -.015** -.016 -.008 -.008 -.006 (.032) (.034) (.006) (.006) (.007) (.029) -.236*** -.228*** -.028***-.033*** -.030** .011 -.025 -.024 .004 (.056) (.059) (.010) (.011) (.012) (.044) -.001 -.001 .001** -.000 -.000 .000 (.001) (.001) (.001) .039 .038 (.031) (.034) -.005 -.015 (.009) (.012) .007 -.002 (.009) (.011) -.007 .010 (.016) (.021) -.033*** -.020 (.012) (.015) No No 82-96 .001 14707 5436 Yes Yes Yes Yes 82-96 82-93 .001 .001 12230 9258 4675 3721

Protected Post Embankment Land Owned Male Oldest Child Youngest Child Male * Oldest Child Male * Youngest Child Further Controls: Number of Brothers Number of Sisters Sample Years R-squared Total obs. Number of groups

82-96 .004 31189

82-93 .004 23463

82-96 .150 16302

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates significance at 1% level; ** indicates significance at 5% level; * indicates significance at 10% level. DID indicates difference-in-difference; ME indicates marginal effects (calculated at means of explanatory variables); FE indicates fixed effects. DID estimated using probit; FE estimated using OLS. Fixed Effects models include household fixed effects.


Table 11: The Change in Consanguinity Rates by Gender
Males Consanguineous Marriage DID FE Coeff. ME .067 .008 (.072) -.085* -.005 -.010 (.051) (.011) -.173* -.032 -.019 (.090) (.020) -.002 -.000 (.001)

Protected Post Embankment Land Owned Oldest Child Youngest Child Sample Years R-squared Total obs. Number of groups

DID Coeff. .067 (.072) -.079* (.048) -.204** (.085) -.002 (.001)



ME .008 -.009 -.022 -.000

-.028* (.015) -.021 (.024)

-.027 (.017) -.025 (.026)

82-96 .004 13446

82-93 .004 10071

82-96 .001 4259 1837

-.022 (.019) -.043*** (.014) 82-96 .005 3161 1383

-.025 (.025) -.037** (.016) 82-93 .006 2321 1037

Protected Post Embankment Land Owned Oldest Child Youngest Child Sample Years R-squared Total obs. Number of groups

DID Coeff. .109* (.063) -.062 (.043) -.262*** (.074) -.000 (.001)

ME .013 -.007 -.027 -.000

Females Consanguineous Marriage DID FE Coeff. ME .109* .013 (.063) -.056 -.005 -.007 (.045) (.009) -.272*** -.043*** -.028 (.079) (.015) -.000 -.000 (.001)



-.006 (.010) -.047*** (.016)

-.006 (.011) -.042** (.018)

82-96 .005 17743

82-93 .005 13392

82-96 .001 6186 2685

-.004 (.012) .003 (.011) 82-96 .001 5403 2367

-.012 (.016) .003 (.013) 82-93 .001 4034 1817


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Appendix Table A1: List of Variables
Marriage Outcome Value of Dowry Consanguinity Spouse Land Owned Spouse Above Average Land Definition Total estimated cash value of dowry paid to husband in Taka Individual married 1st, 2nd, or other cousin Land owned by head of spouse’s household in 1982 (measured in decimals) Spouse’s household owns more than 10.347 decimals of land (avg. land owned by households of spouses chosen within the sample period) Age of individual at time of marriage Age of spouse at time of marriage Indicator for whether or not male spouse is more than 10 years older than the female marriage observation Group status of spouse (time-invariant indicator for whether or not spouse’s household is protected by embankment)

Age at Marriage Spouse Age at Marriage Spouse Age Gap Protected Spouse

Explanatory Variables Protected Post Embankment Land Owned Above Average Land Owned


Definition Group status of individual Indicator equal to 1 if marriage year between 1989-1996 and 0 if marriage year between 1982-1987 Embankment effect (interaction of Protected and Post) Land owned by head of individual’s household in 1982 Household owns more than 10.744 decimals of land (avg. land owned by households of individuals getting married within the sample period) Indicator equal to 1 if household head is a farmer and 0 otherwise


Table A2: Descriptive Statistics for Fixed Effects Sample

Post-embankment .05

Protected Unprotected Protected Unprotected

Percentage of Consanguineous Marriages Female Age at Marriage Male Age at Marriage Household Land Owned (1982)
Land Owned by Spouse's Household (1982) Percentage of Marriages to Spouse from outside Matlab Percentage of Marriages to Spouse from outside Village




























Total Marriage Observations





Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates t-test significant at 1%, **indicates significant at 5% level, * indicates significant at 10% level. Pre indicates 1985-1986; Post indicates 1989-1996. Sample taken from fixed effects estimation for consanguinity.

Family Size in 1982 Pre-embankment Post-embankment

Protected Unprotected Protected Unprotected

DID Sample Obs. Fixed Effects Sample Obs.





2288 6.76

4842 6.71

7741 6.90

16318 6.90





Standard errors in parentheses. Pre indicates 1985-1986; Post indicates 1989-1996. Samples taken from difference-in-difference and fixed effects estimations for consanguinity.


Table A3: Robustness to Excluding Migrants, Divorces and Hindus
Dependent Variable:

Without Migrants Consanguinity Above Avg. Land DID FE DID FE
Coeff. ME Coeff. ME

Without Marriages Ending in Divorce Consanguinity Above Avg. Land DID FE DID FE
Coeff. ME Coeff. ME

Muslims Only Consanguinity Above Avg. Land DID FE DID FE
Coeff. ME Coeff. ME

Protected Post

.090* (.047) -.077** (.032) .234*** (.056) -.001 (.001)

.011 .009 .024 .000
-.013** (.007) .036*** (.011)

.062* (.035) -.027 (.027) .082* (.045)

.022 .009 .029
-.001 (.023) .007 (.033)

.103** (.049) -.066** (.033) .237*** (.058) -.001 (.001)

.012 .008 .024 .000
.015** (.007) .029** (.011)

.027 (.039) -.020 (.029) .114** (.048)

.010 .007 .041
.026 (.026) -.012 (.037)

.062 (.049) -.069** (.033) .235*** (.057) -.001* (.001)

.008 .009 .026 .000
-.017** (.007) -.030** (.012)

.063* (.036) -.016 (.029) .070 (.047)

.023 .006 .026
-.003 (.026) .020 (.036)

Embankment Land Owned Above Avg. Amount of Land Male Oldest Child Youngest Child Male * Oldest Child Male * Youngest Child Further Controls: Number of Brothers Number of Sisters R-squared Total obs. Number of groups

.199*** (.023) .040 (.031) -.004 (.009) .008 (.009) -.008 (.017) .034*** (.013)

-.104 (.092) .023 (.036) -.014 (.030) .106* (.058) -.033 (.041) .036 (.033) -.002 (.010) .005 (.009) -.014 (.017) .026** (.013)

.195*** (.024)

-.110 (.121) .009 (.038) .012 (.033) -.090 (.062) -.048 (.044) .040 (.032) -.006 (.011) .013 (.010) -.004 (.019) .042*** (.014)

.176*** (.023)

-.113 (.094) .017 (.038) -.033 (.033) -.101 (.063) -.010 (.045)

.005 29909

Yes Yes .001 11821 4481

.006 15013

Yes Yes .000 4272 1805

.004 29561

Yes Yes .000 11268 4427

.006 13810

Yes Yes .001 3614 1586

.005 27461

Yes Yes .001 10149 3863

.005 13753

Yes Yes .001 3763 1597

Standard errors in parentheses. *** indicates significance at 1% level; ** indicates significance at 5% level; * indicates significance at 10% level. DID indicates difference-in-difference; ME indicates marginal effects (calculated at means of explanatory variables); FE indicates fixed effects. DID Consanguinity and Above Avg. Land estimated using probit; all other models estimated using OLS. Fixed Effects models include household fixed effects. Migrants are defined as any individual migrating within or outside Matlab for a reason other than marriage during the post-embankment period (1989-1996). "Divorce" is defined as any marriage ending in divorce by the end of 1996. We don't have information for 1992 divorces, so those are not accounted for in the robustness check.


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