Where have all the brides gone? Son preference and marriage in India over the twentieth century

Bishnupriya Gupta
Published Online:
30 Sep 2013
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 67 Issue 1

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Marriage is universal for women in India, but the marriage rate for men varies across regions, where the region is a proxy for shared cultural norms. A preference for sons results in a biased sex ratio towards men and creates a shortage of brides in the marriage market. Using the Indian census of 1931, the article finds that son preference was a regional phenomenon and led to a low marriage rate for men. Using caste‐level information, the article finds no evidence that men from the upper castes enjoyed an advantage in the marriage market as the theoretical literature predicts. The regional differences in gender bias and marriage market outcomes have persisted over the twentieth century and indicate the persistence of cultural values. The long‐run changes show that the marriage squeeze has reduced the surplus of men in all regions; however, the regional differences in son preference and marriage outcomes were still the same in 2001.

© Economic History Society 2013

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