Originally published in Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization
This paper develops and empirically tests a theory of the market for “child brides”—prepubescent girls whose parents marry them to adult men. We argue that parental preference for sons over daughters creates a supply of, and demand for, prepubescent brides in impoverished societies. Evidence from India, one of the most son-preferring and child-bride populous nations in the world, supports our theory’s predictions: stronger son preference is associated with the birth of more unwanted daughters, younger postpubescent-female age at marriage, and a higher incidence of prepubescent brides. Moreover, son preference has a stronger positive association with prepubescent brides where poverty is more extreme; prepubescent brides have lower quality husbands than postpubescent brides; and stronger son preference is associated with a higher ratio of traditional-marriage-aged males to females.