Sunday, 11 November 2007

Brides and Prejudice

"...when parents are involved in mate choice, sons are significantly less likely to marry college-educated women and women engaged in the labor force, after controlling for individual and family characteristics. I show that these effects are driven, at least in part, by parental preferences and cannot entirely be attributed to correlation between arranged marriages and unobserved characteristics. These results suggest that lowering the incentive for parental control in mate choice may improve investments in women's human capital in India."

That's from the abstract to this paper by Divya Mathur,who's pursuing her PhD at the University of Chicago (link via Tyler Cowen at Reading through the paper makes me laugh for the most part. I can see how this would sound like a really cool paper for anyone based in the US with a limited knowledge of Indian society and culture.
I think she over-simplifies things when she states that "Parents prefer a daughter-in-law with inferior human capital attributes because this allows them to extract a larger share of household resources, even if the size of the “pie” is smaller than it would be if the daughter-in-law had higher human capital." I don't think extracting 'a larger share of household resources' would be the major motivating factor in middle and upper class households in Mumbai (which is the set of people she studied/surveyed). I would say it has more to do with maintaining social status. Perhaps a further analysis could be the preference for arranged marriages amongst families that regularly watch Ekta Kapoor's saas-bahu soaps versus families that watch(ed) Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin.
My favourite line from the article is the concluding sentence:

"This suggests that developing infrastructure for the care of the elderly, improving social security, encouraging retirement planning, and thereby lowering the incentive for parental control over son’s marital choices, may be an effective mechanism for increasing investment in women’s human capital."

Sounds like an extremely roundabout mechanism to bring about an increase investment in women's human capital.
Especially when you consider this:

"Women put greater weight on the intelligence and the race of partner, while men respond more to physical attractiveness. Moreover, men do not value women’s intelligence or ambition when it exceeds their own."

So we might see increased investments in women's grooming products in India instead...


  1. Actually this isn't as silly as it sounds. I will hold off commenting on any paper until I read it and understand what's going on.

    Social networking to "achieve" a marriage partner is kind of fun to study.

    And, shortie is a ten.

  2. It'd be hard to state anything without some kind of reasoning backing it (however wrong) especially for someone from U Chicago.

    That's easily the toughest to get in and easiest to get out of economics phd program around, and this girl had to be pretty smart and/or excellent recommenders to get in. Just passing Chicago's comps is a huge accomplishment. It just sounds hard to state something that's laughable, esp by an Indian, but then I dont know anything so I should stop.