Is there Dowry Inflation in South Asia?: An Assessment of the Evidence

Trevon D. Logan, Ohio State University
Raj Arunachalam, University of Michigan

This paper is the first systematic attempt measure the existence and degree of dowry inflation in South Asia. The popular press and scholarly literature have assumed dowry inflation in South Asia for some time, and there are now a number of theoretical papers that have attempted to explain the rise of dowries in South Asia over time. The existing empirical support for dowry inflation rests on estimates of dowry functions, which map bride and groom characteristics into a dowry amount, but the size of the dowry, year-of-marriage relationship is unknown and no systematic survey of the phenomenon exist. We examine evidence for dowry inflation using survey data from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal containing information on dowry amounts or prevalence over time. We find no evidence that real dowry amounts have increased over time. The reports of dowry inflation, though widely publicized, have little empirical support.

  See paper

Presented in Session 160: Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: Gender Issues