Marriage institutions and human capital investments: Experimental evidence from Pakistan

Gender bias against girls is pervasive in South Asia. For instance, The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are “missing” in the sense that they would be alive in a world without gender discrimination. The vast majority of these “missing” girls are from Asia.  Even after they are born, girls continue to face significant discrimination — they are less likely to be vaccinated (Barcellos et al., 2014), breastfed (Jayanchandran and Kuziemeko, 2011), and enrolled in school (Shah and Steinberg, 2013) relative to their boy siblings.

The aim of this project is to test experimentally whether marriage institutions are one of the reasons that parents discriminate in human capital investment decisions. More specifically we ask whether different marriage institutions (e.g. bride price vs dowry) result in different human capital investment decisions in terms of health as well as education and skill development.  An answer to this question will allow us to explore the design of public policies that might reduce gender differences in human capital accumulation.  It will also enable us to investigate the potential impact on economic growth due to this reduced gender discrimination.

The importance of these questions stems from the fact that accumulation of human capital is a key driver of economic growth, and therefore understanding the determinants of human capital investments is a first-order issue in development economics. We plan to combine experimental and observational data with economic models to improve our understanding of how the marriage market affects human capital investment decisions to be able to provide some evidence on these pressing development issues.


  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 4 Sep 2015.