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Strategic Behavior and Marriage Payments: Theory and Evidence from Senegal

Frédéric Gaspart () and Jean-Philippe Platteau ()

Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2010, vol. 59, issue 1, 149-185

Abstract: This article proposes an original theory of marriage payments based on insights gained from firsthand information collected in the Senegal River valley. This theory postulates that decisions about the bride-price, which are made by the bride's father, take into account the likely effects of the amount set on the risk of ill-treatment of the wife and the risk of marriage failure. Based on a sequential game with three players (the bride's father, the husband, and the wife) and a matching process, it leads to a number of important predictions that are tested against Senegalese data relating to bride-prices and various characteristics of women. The empirical results confirm that parents behave strategically by keeping bride-prices down so as to reduce the risk of marriage failure for their daughters. Other interesting effects on marriage payments and the probability of separation are also highlighted, stressing the role of the bride's bargaining power in her own family. (c) 2010 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Date: 2010
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