Marry for What? Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India
Jeanne Lafortune; Abhijit Banerjee; Esther Duflo; Maitreesh Ghatak
Documento de Trabajo IE-PUC, N° 423, 2012.
Abstract: This paper analyzes how preferences for a non-economic characteristic, such as caste, can affect equilibrium patterns of matching in the marriage market, and empirically evaluates this in the context of arranged marriages among middle-class Indians. We develop a model that demonstrates how the equilibrium consequences of caste depend on whether we observe a bias towards one’s own group or if there is a preference for “marrying up”. We then estimate actual preferences for caste, education, beauty, and other attributes using a unique data set on individuals who placed matrimonial advertisements in a major newspaper, the responses they received, and how they ranked them. Our key empirical finding is the presence of a strong preference for in-caste marriage. We find that in equilibrium, as predicted by our theoretical framework, these preferences do little to alter the matching patterns on non-caste attributes, and so people do not have to sacrifice much to marry within caste. This suggests a reason why caste remains a persistent feature of the Indian marriage market.
JEL classification: D10, J12, O12
Keywords: Caste, Marriage, Stable matching