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Gender Bias in Educational Attainment in India : The Role of Dowry Payments

Jacob, Arun (2016): Gender Bias in Educational Attainment in India : The Role of Dowry Payments.

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Abstract

This paper explores the linkages between dowry payments and educational attainment of women. It formulates an unitary household model that captures how these linkages can potentially impact the educational investment decisions within a household. Based on existing literature and the theoretical model, the following three competing hypotheses arise, namely, (i) dowry do not affect educational attainment (ii) dowry favors educational attainment of women (iii) dowry hampers educational attainment of women. Using a national level household survey from India, we test between these three hypotheses. It adopts an instrumental variable estimation strategy to correct for endogeneity of the dowry measure. It finds strong empirical evidence for the hypothesis that expected dowry payments adversely affects female educational attainment. This is mainly driven by the hypergamous marriage custom, by which a bride is normally matched with a groom of higher educational level, which leads to the perverse outcome of dowry increasing with educational level of both bride and groom. We find that future dowry payments have a significant role in lowering educational attainment among women in India. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt at empirically estimating the impact of dowry system on the educational attainment of women. An Engel curve estimation using household expenses reveals significant ender bias in terms of educational expenses. The extension of the research also shows dowry contributes to the ‘missing women’ phenomenon, due to the positive influence of dowry on parents’ preference for male children.

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