Does More Dowry Make Life Better for Brides? A Test of Bequest Theories of Dowry in Rural Bangladesh

Luciana Suran, Population Council
Sajeda Amin, Population Council

In recent years, dowry levels have skyrocketed to previously unforeseen levels. Among Hindus in northern India dowry can amount to several year's worth of household income (Deolalikar and Rao, 1998). Among Muslims in Bangladesh and Hindus in South India dowry has become commonplace whereas the practice did not exist a generation ago (Amin and Cain, 1997). The institution of dowry is a considerable financial burden for the families of brides. It has been widely criticized, socially maligned, and legally banned, yet it persists. Now some recent economic writings have begun to suggest that dowry is a bequest or a pre-mortem inheritance implying it persists because it is "good for the bride." Using longitudinal panel data from an adolescent study in rural Bangladesh, this paper explores the association between dowry amount and post-marriage time use patterns, social life and prevalence of abuse to test the bequest theory of dowry.

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Presented in Session 133: Understanding Domestic Violence in Developing Countries