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The puzzle of rising education, delayed marriage and the persistence of dowry in India: The role of changing characteristics and numbers of ‘eligible’ grooms in the marriage market

Alaka Basu, Cornell University
Sneha Kumar, Cornell University

This paper does some simple demographic analysis using data from successive rounds of the National Family Health Survey in India to comment on the changing timing of marriage in the country. Marriage ages for both women and men have seen significant rises in the last 25 years. Some of this rise may be attributed to positive social changes like increases in women’s education, ‘modernization’ and policy pressures. At the same time, a worsening of the economic prospects of young men has intensified the marriage squeeze, even as the pure demographic numbers by age suggest an easing in the numbers of available grooms. With stable employment becoming an increasing requirement of groom eligibility, and worsening employment levels especially in educated men, the male marriage market has become increasingly heterogeneous Some men are reduced to paying bride price, others are forced to delay marriage until a job materializes, and the lucky few who are educated as well as employed can name their price in a society that still frowns upon women remaining single for long. We discuss some of the social and political ramifications of these increases in young unmarried men.

Keywords: Family demography, Gender, Human capital and labour markets, Politics and demography

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 25. Challenges Facing the Young in India