Evolution of Mehr and Dowry among Muslims in Bangladesh: Natural Shocks as an Explanation

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 01.07.2014, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Shyamal Chowdhury (University of Sydney)


In this paper, we argue that the fluctuations in the value of mehr and dowry observed since 1960s in Muslim marriages in Bangladesh can be explained by the natural economic and political shocks: the Green Revolution (GR) in the 1960s, the Independence War (IW) in 1971 and the famine in 1974. The positive income effect of the GR increased the values of both dowry and mehr. However, rise in agricultural production during the GR also increased the demand for, and consequently the shadow price of, female labor within the household, which exerted downward pressure on the value of dowry. Therefore, the net effect on dowry was ambiguous. In contrast, the negative income effect of the war and famine had decreased the values of both dowry and mehr, and their values remained at lower levels in the absence of further shocks. Using two household survey datasets, we find support for our hypotheses. Our results have important implications that natural shocks influence the evolution of social institutions.

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