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Muslim Family Law, Prenuptial Agreements, and the Emergence of Dowry in Bangladesh

Attila Ambrus, Erica Field and Maximo Torero ()

The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2010, vol. 125, issue 3, 1349-1397

Abstract: We explain trends in dowry levels in Bangladesh by drawing attention to an institutional feature of marriage contracts previously ignored in the literature: mehr or traditional Islamic bride-price. We develop a model of marriage contracts in which mehr serves as a barrier to husbands exiting marriage and a component of dowry as an amount that ex ante compensates the groom for the cost of mehr. We investigate how mehr and dowry respond to exogenous changes in the costs of polygamy and divorce, and show that our model gives a different set of predictions than traditional models. We show that major changes in dowry levels took place precisely after the legal changes, corresponding to simultaneous changes in levels of mehr.

Date: 2010
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