Marriage and Assortative Matching in Rural Ethiopia

Marcel Fafchamps, University of Oxford
Agnes R. Quisumbing, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

This paper examines the determinants of human and physical capital at marriage. Using detailed data from rural Ethiopia, we find ample evidence of assortative matching at marriage. Assets brought to marriage are distributed in a highly unequal manner. Sorting operates at a variety of levels--wealth, schooling, and work experience--that cannot be summarized into a single additive index. For first unions, assets brought to marriage are positively associated with parents' wealth, indicating that a bequest motive affects assets at marriage. Parents' wealth also positively affects inheritance of both brides and grooms, although sibling competition also affects grooms' inheritance. Unlike most brides, grooms appear to accumulate individual assets over time and over marriages. The marriage market is a major conduit for rural and gender inequality, although avenues do exist for couples to accumulate wealth over their life cycle.

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