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The Economics of Dowry and Brideprice

Siwan Anderson

Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2007, vol. 21, issue 4, 151-174

Abstract: Payments between families at the time of marriage have existed throughout the history of most developed countries and are currently pervasive in many areas of the developing world. These payments can be substantial enough to affect the welfare of women and a society's distribution of wealth. Recent estimates document transfers per marriage amounting to four to six times annual household income. This paper first establishes some basic facts about the prevalence and magnitude of marriage payments. It then discusses how such patterns vary across countries depending upon economic conditions, societal structures, institutions, and family characteristics. Marriage payments have evolved within societies over time: in some periods, payments have risen sharply; in some cases, payments have shifted from the grooms' side to the brides', and vice versa; sometimes, property rights over such payments shift between marrying partners and parental generations. The second part of this paper discusses the economic literature devoted to explaining these facts.

Date: 2007
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.4.151
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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:4:p:151-174