NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 4, 2008

When upper-middle-class Indian parents help select a wife for their son, he is 11 percent less likely to marry a college-educated woman and nearly 20 percent less likely to marry a working woman than is a comparable man who enters into a "love marriage," independent of his parents' wishes, says Divya Mathur in a University of Chicago study.

According to Mathur, the bias against educated and working women stems in part from the way Indian extended families are structured:

  • Studies show that the more education and earning power a woman enjoys the more control she exercises in the family.
  • But in India, where 82 percent of parents over the age of 60 live with their kids, maintaining influence over household affairs can be crucial for those navigating old age.
  • This reality, Mathur writes, leads parents to "prefer a daughter-in-law with inferior human capital attributes because this allows them to extract a larger share of household resources."

Mathur suggests that love marriages -- which are on the rise, particularly in urban India -- may spur economic growth; both by redistributing resources among generations and by providing a greater incentive for women to invest in their own education (because doing so would be less likely to work against their marriage prospects).

Source: "Matchmaker, Matchmaker…" The Atlantic, March 2008.

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