Learning your Child's Price

Evidence from Data on Projected Dowry in Rural India

by Amalavoyal V. Chari, Annemie Maertens

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The authors combine novel data and methodology to shed light on the contribution to dowry of a composite characteristic that they refer to a child quality. Their findings can be summarized as follows: (1) Dowry values are not determined by household characteristics alone: child quality is a very significant determinant of dowry; (2) Quality is not a homogenous attribute for boys and girls: They distinguish them between "high-level" quality (which matters for boys) and "low-level" quality (which matters for girls); (3) High-level quality does not begin revealing itself until the child enters school, whereas low-level quality starts becoming apparent at an earlier stage; (4) An increase in quality in girls appears to increase their dowry values: they argue that this is consistent with the idea that girls marry up and that quality has a horizontal component; (5) For boys, quality gets partially absorbed into educational attainments, whereas for girls quality continues to matter because it does not get translated into educational investments.

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