Remarkably stable Indian dowry payments, study finds

India dot

Over 90% of couples live with husband’s family after marriage in India

Dowry payments in Indian villages have been largely stable over the past decades, according to a World Bank study.

Researchers looked at 40,000 marriages that took place in rural India between 1960 and 2008.

They found that dowry was paid in 95% of marriages, even though it had been illegal in India since 1961.

The practice, often described as a social evil, continues to thrive and leaves women vulnerable to domestic violence and even death.

Paying and accepting the dowry is an age-old tradition in South Asia where the parents of the bride donate money, clothing and jewelry to the groom’s family.

the study was based on dowry data from 17 Indian states which are home to 96% of the Indian population. He focused on rural India as a majority of Indians continue to live in villages.

Economists S Anukriti, Nishith Prakash and Sunghoh Kwon used information on the value of gifts – in cash and in kind – received or given at the time of marriage.

They calculated “net dowry” as the difference between the value of gifts given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family and those given by the groom’s family to the bride’s family. The groom’s family had paid the bride’s family more in a very small number of weddings.

They found that the average net dowry had been “remarkably stable” over time, with some inflation before 1975 and after 2000.

And researchers have found that a groom’s family spends an average of around 5,000 rupees ($ 67; £ 48) in real terms on gifts to the bride’s family.

Unsurprisingly, gifts from the bride’s family cost seven times as much, or around 32,000 rupees ($ 429). This involved a net real average dowry of 27,000 rupees ($ 361).

Dowries consume a substantial portion of household savings and income: in 2007, the average net dowry in rural India was 14% of annual household income.

“As a proportion of income, the dowry has declined over time because, on average, rural incomes have increased in India,” said Dr Anukriti, an economist at the World Bank Research Group.

“But this is only an average statement – to calculate the amount of dowry relative to household income for each household, we will need data on household income or expenditure, but unfortunately we do not have such data, ”she said.

Marriage in India

  • Almost all marriages in India are monogamous

  • Less than 1% end up getting a divorce

  • Parents play an important role in choosing the groom – in over 90% of marriages between 1960 and 2005, parents chose the spouse

  • Over 90% of couples live with the husband’s family after marriage

  • Over 85% of women marry someone outside their village

  • 78.3% of marriages are in the same district

Source: Marriage markets and the rise of the dowry in India by Gaurav Chiplunkar and Jeffrey Weaver

Much has changed in India between 2008 and now. But the researchers say dowry payment trends or patterns were probably not too different today in the absence of “dramatic changes or structural disruptions in marriage markets, laws, men’s human capital. and women and women’s labor market outcomes “.

The study also found that dowry was prevalent in all major religious groups in India. Interestingly, Christians and Sikhs have shown a “striking increase in dowry,” leading to higher average dowries than Hindus and Muslims.

Another interesting finding was the substantial differences between states over time. The southern state of Kerala has experienced “sharp and persistent dowry inflation” since the 1970s and had the highest average dowry in recent years, according to the study. Other states like Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat have also experienced dowry inflation. In contrast, the average dowry has declined in the states of Odisha (formerly Orissa), West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

India dot

Dowry donations are in cash and in kind

“We do not have definitive answers on these differences. We hope to explore this question in future research,” said Dr Anukriti.

In one paper published in January, economists Gaurav Chiplunkar and Jeffrey Weaver used data from more than 74,000 marriages in India over the past century to explain how the dowry system has evolved over time.

Researchers found that the proportion of Indian marriages, including dowry payments, doubled between 1930 and 1975, and the average real value of dowry payments tripled. But after 1975 there was a decline in the average dowry size.

They estimated that the total value of dowry payments in India between 1950 and 1999 was almost a quarter of a trillion dollars.

Read more by Soutik Biswas


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