10.16.2012

Sibling externalities in the marriage market


I have weddings on the brain since my lovely fiance and I are planning ours this year, so I thought it would be nice to do a "marriage series" of posts on FE. Here's the first installment.

Lately, I've been thinking about whether we can empirically measure the long-run effect (on HH capital) of spending lots of money on expensive weddings, reminding me of this recent paper on the potentially long-run effects of sibling competition in the marriage market.

Marriage Institutions and Sibling Competition: Evidence from South Asia
Tom Vogl
Using data from South Asia, this paper examines how arranged marriage cultivates rivalry among sisters. During marriage search, parents with multiple daughters reduce the reservation quality for an older daughter's groom, rushing her marriage to allow sufficient time to marry off her younger sisters. Relative to younger brothers, younger sisters increase a girl’s marriage risk; relative to younger singleton sisters, younger twin sisters have the same effect. These effects intensify in marriage markets with lower sex ratios or greater parental involvement in marriage arrangements. In contrast, older sisters delay a girl’s marriage. Because girls leave school when they marry and face limited earnings opportunities when they reach adulthood, the number of sisters has well-being consequences over the lifecycle. Younger sisters cause earlier school-leaving, lower literacy, a match to a husband with less education and a less-skilled occupation, and (marginally) lower adult economic status. Data from a broader set of countries indicate that these cross-sister pressures on marriage age are common throughout the developing world, although the schooling costs vary by setting.

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