Why Dowry Payments Declined With Modernisation in Europe but are Rising in India

K.S. Anderson

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In contrast to most dowry oriented societies where payments have declined with modernisation, those in India have undergone significant inflation over the last five decades.This paper explains the difference between these two experiences by focusing on the role played by caste.The theoretical model contrasts caste and non-caste based societies: in the former, there exists an inherited component to status (caste) which is independent of wealth, while in the latter, wealth is the primary determinant of status.Modernisation is assumed to involve two components: increasing average wealth and increasing wealth dispersion within status (or caste) groups.The paper shows that, in caste-based societies, the increases in wealth dispersion which accompany modernisation necessarily lead to increases in dowry payments, whereas in non-caste case based societies, increased dispersion has no real effect on dowry payments and increasing average wealth causes the payments to decline.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • marriage
  • costs


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