Marital transfers and the welfare of women

Chan, William
October 2014
Oxford Economic Papers;Oct2014, Vol. 66 Issue 4, p1019
Academic Journal
Throughout history, marriage has often been accompanied by substantial exchange of wealth. My earlier works suggested that dowry can be interpreted as a pre-mortem bequest by a woman's parents to help establish her position and safeguard her welfare in the new conjugal household. This hypothesis is, however, inconsistent with the dominant view in India, where inflating dowry is considered responsible for the plights of many women. Despite these divergent views, recent studies suggested that dowry is not a homogeneous transfer but a combination of different transactions. In this article, I use a survey data set from India to decompose the transfer into various components and identify their effects on the status of the wife. It is found that a larger transfer from the bride's parents to the bride will enhance her decision-making role. This suggests an outright ban on dowry may not necessarily serve the interest of Indian women.


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