A Theory of Child Marriage

Economics

Speaker:Zaki Wahhaj, University of Kent
Date: Friday 3 May 2013
Time: 16:15
Location: Matrix Lecture Theatre, Building One

Further details

The practice of early marriage for women remains prevalent in developing countries around the world today, and is associated with various health risks, including infant mortality and maternal mortality as a consequence of early pregnancy. This paper develops a dynamic model of a marriage market to explore whether a norm of early marriage for women can prevail in the absence of any intrinsic preference for young brides. We show that if a certain desirable female attribute, relevant for the gains from marriage, is only noisily observed before a marriage is contracted, then its prevalence declines in each age cohort with time spent on the marriage market; thus, age can signal poorer quality and require higher marriage payments. The marriage market has potentially multiple equilibria including 'early marriage' and 'late marriage' equilibria for women. In this situation, we show that interventions that increase the opportunity cost of early marriage .such as increased access to secondary schooling or adolescent development programmes can cause the early marriage equilibrium to unravel.