Essays on marriage markets and fertility in developing countries
This dissertation investigates the relationship between marriage markets and fertility in developing countries.
Chapter 1 considers the impact of family planning on dowry transfers. We construct a model of the marriage market in which prospective mates anticipate the outcome of intrahousehold bargaining over fertility. We show that as the price of contraception falls, brides must compensate men with higher dowries in order to attract them into marriage. We test the model using data from a successful 1970s family planning experiment in Bangladesh, which lowered average fertility by 0.65 children. We find that the program increased bride-to-groom dowry transfer amounts 1 by at least eighty percent. The marriage market’s response to a family planning program may dampen the welfare benefits of family planning for women.
Chapter 2 studies dowry in historical perspective. We estimate a model with heterogeneous dowry motives and use the predictions from competing theories of dowry in an exogenous switching regression to place households in the price or bequest regime. Our empirical strategy generates multiple, independent checks on the validity of regime assignment. We find robust evidence of heterogeneity in dowry motives in rural Bangladesh; that bequest dowries have declined in prevalence and amount over time; and that bequest households are better off compared to price households on a variety of welfare measures.
Chapter 3 tests and rejects a prominent explanation for the earnings premium to commercial sex work: since prostitutes cannot marry, they be compensated for the foregone earnings from "selling" their fertility within marriage. Using data from Ecuador and Mexico, we show that prostitutes are more likely to be married at younger ages, when the earnings premium is greatest; and that male sex workers draw an even larger premium than females.