Forced Marriage and Birth Outcomes

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2016-04-06

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Abstract

We study the impact of bride kidnapping, a peculiar form of marriage practiced in Central Asia, on child birth weight. The search for a suitable mate in a kidnapped marriage is initiated by the groom, and there is typically non-coerced consent only by the male. We expect adverse consequences from such marriages, working through poor spousal matching quality and subsequent psychosocial stress. We analyze survey data from rural Kyrgyzstan. We apply several estimation models, including an IV estimation in which we instrument kidnapping among young women with the district-level prevalence of kidnapping among older women. Our findings indicate that children born to kidnapped mothers are of a substantially lower birth weight than children born to mothers who are not kidnapped. This has important implications for children’s long-term development; it also discredits the ritualized-kidnapping-as-elopement view.

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