Working Papers

Early Marriage and Social Norms: Evidence from India’s Unenforced Child Marriage Ban

(Submitted and under review)

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Abstract: Women who marry early have lower decision-making power, 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 (Amendment), which raised the legal age of marriage for women from 15 to 18 years. I exploit geographical variation in early marriage social norms combined with differences in year of birth to define exposure to the law and find that the ban led to a 7.8 percent decrease in the likelihood of marriage before 18, at the average norm intensity. I rule out the role of differential sex ratios, enforcement capacities, or political leadership as a mechanism. Instead, I argue that awareness of the ban, combined with a perception of enforcement, drives the results. The research makes a significant contribution to our understanding of policy implementation by highlighting the non-sanctionary role of law in affecting the behavior of individuals.

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

(Submitted and under review)

Read a summary of the research in the CSWS Annual Review

(Funded by the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS))

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Abstract: In Pakistan, hundreds of men and women are killed every year in the name of “honor”, yet data and our understanding of these crimes are limited. I systematically collect and compile a data set of honor killings in the country using newspaper reports from 13 local and national news sources, covering 94 districts for 41 months. The data suggest approximately 70 percent of victims of honor based crimes are young women, while 43 percent of perpetrators are members of the victim’s natal family. I exploit rainfall variation to examine the effect of income shocks on honor killings and find that an increase in rainfall from the long run average is associated with a 6.3 percent rise in reported honor killing incidents in cotton producing districts. Higher than average rainfall shocks reduce production of cotton, a major cash crop, likely negatively affecting income. 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”.

Competition in Sibling Fertility? An Analysis of South Asian Joint Households

(Draft Nov 2020)

Abstract: Approximately 20 percent of households in India have at least one co-residing daughter-in-law. In this research, I examine the hypothesis that the social status of women in joint Indian households is determined by both their husband’s relative age, as well as the gender of their children. Women who marry the elder co-resident son (first rank) have greater decision making power and mobility as a result of being the elder daughter-in-law, compared to women who marry the younger co-resident son (second rank). Thus, first ranking women have less pressure to bear a son to improve their autonomy. Women who marry the younger co-residing son cannot improve their autonomy using rank, and instead have a greater incentive to birth a son. Using the Demographic and Health Survey for India, I provide preliminary evidence that first ranking women increase birth spacing by a magnitude of 16 percent on average, upon the entrance of the second rank, even if they have not already borne sons. This delay in births is not explained by a change in early childhood investments. Furthermore, second ranking women reduce their marriage-to-first birth interval by approximately 4.7 percent if the first ranking woman in the household already has a son. Taken together, the results provide suggestive evidence for fertility rivalry within a household, as a means to improve social status.

Research in Progress

Access to Factory Jobs and Women’s Economic Empowerment (with Aditi Kadam and Isis Gaddis)

Matching in an Arranged Marriage Market: An Empirical Analysis Using Novel Data from Pakistan