The Price of Fertility: Marriage Markets and Family Planning in Bangladesh

Raj Arunachalam, University of Michigan
Suresh Naidu, University of California, Berkeley

This paper 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 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.

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Presented in Session 76: Family Economic Relations