Isaac Mbiti (Department of Economics, Southern Methodist University)
03-10-2008, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.
Analysis of the Indian census shows that female marital migration accounts for the majority of the spatial mobility in India. Using a unique panel dataset that is representative of rural India, I estimate the effect of increases in the value of female labor on women’s marriage market outcomes. Female labor is more valuable in rice farming than wheat farming. I exploit rainfall shocks across rice farming households’ and wheat farming households’ to identify the effect of female labor productivity on the marriage market. Consistent with a model of household composition and crop choice in the presence of imperfect markets for female labor, I find that increases in female labor productivity are associated with decreases in the marriage rate of prime age females. Moreover, when female labor productivity is high, dowries paid out by the bride’s family households also decline indicating a rise in the bargaining power of the bride’s family during dowry negotiations. Female disadvantage in India has been tied to the culture of dowry. These results suggest that policies designed to increase the value of female labor can improve women’s standing in the household by reducing dowry payments.