Laws and Social Norms: Evaluating the Unintended Consequences of India’s Child Marriage Ban

Abstract: Women who marry early have lower female empowerment, less education, and poorer maternal health outcomes. While many countries have implemented laws to increase the legal age of marriage, the global number of child brides remains high, with India as the largest contributor. I analyze India’s 1978 Child Marriage Restraint Act, which raised the legal age of marriage for women from 15 to 18 years, though there is little evidence for enforcement. I exploit geographical variation in marriage market norms combined with differences across cohorts to define exposure to the law, and find that the ban led to heterogeneous results across markets. While the policy was effective in delaying marriage in markets with higher prevalence of pre-policy child marriage, the ban backfired in markets where women were less likely to marry underage. These convergence results are driven by both uneducated and educated women from urban areas, and are robust to the inclusion of cohort and marriage market fixed effects. I present a simple theoretical model to highlight this expressive effect of the law and show convergence can result as long as there exists some perception of enforcement.

In the Name of Honor? Evaluating the Impact of Weather Variability on “Honor” Killings in Pakistan

Abstract: In Pakistan, approximately 700 men and women are killed every year in the name of honor. This research aims to improve our understanding of “honor” based crimes in two stages. First, I systematically compile a unique data set of honor killings using newspaper reports from 11 local and national news sources, covering 89 districts for 41 months. The data suggests approximately 70% of victims of honor based crimes are young women, while 50% of perpetrators are members of the victim’s natal family. I show that reporting is not biased towards incidents with a higher number of deaths, or more “gruesome” crimes. Second, I show that higher than average rainfall shocks reduce production of cotton, a major cash crop, likely negatively affecting income. I exploit rainfall variation, using the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite data, to examine the effect of income shocks on honor killings. Using a fixed effects Poisson model, I find that a one standard deviation increase in the previous month’s rainfall from the local long run average increases reported honor killing incidents in cotton producing districts by 7.3%. Dry shocks have no significant effect. I interpret these results as suggestive evidence that adverse income shocks are an underlying cause of murder of individuals for “honor”.