Erica Field, Duke University
Seminar Co-Sponsor: Luskin Public Policy
Abstract: Child marriage remains common in many settings even where schooling and
labor market opportunities have grown considerably. To explain this phenomenon,
we introduce a marriage market signaling model in which bride type is not per-
fectly observed but preferred brides have lower benefits of delaying marriage.
This gives preferred brides an incentive to reveal their type by marrying young,
shifting the market towards early marriage even when everyone benefits from
delay. In this setting, a small incentive that shifts preferred brides towards later
marriage can delay marriage of all types through spillovers. We test this predic-
tion by evaluating the impact of a financial incentive to delay marriage among
15,576 adolescent girls in Bangladesh. Consistent with the theory, girls eligible
for the incentive for two years were 21% less likely to marry before 18, and
girls who were ineligible for the incentive but lived near treatment communities
also delayed marriage.
A recording of Dr. Field’s presentation may be accessed here.