I thank the participants at seminars in Cambridge, City University London, LSE, Oxford, and Warwick, and the Economic History Society Meeting in Warwick and the World Economic History Congress in Utrecht for comments. I am grateful to V. Bhaskar for many discussions and to three anonymous referees for helpful comments. Thanks are due to Anwita Basu, Johan Custodis, Mario Sanclemente, and Chris Taylor for research assistance at different phases of this work. Any remaining errors are mine alone.
Where have all the brides gone? Son preference and marriage in India over the twentieth century†
Article first published online: 30 SEP 2013
© Economic History Society 2013
The Economic History Review
Volume 67, Issue 1, pages 1–24, February 2014
How to Cite
Gupta, B. (2014), Where have all the brides gone? Son preference and marriage in India over the twentieth century. The Economic History Review, 67: 1–24. doi: 10.1111/1468-0289.12011
- Issue published online: 15 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 30 SEP 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 6 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 18 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Received: 7 JUL 2011
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.