DP10619 | The Demographic Transition and the Position of Women: A Marriage Market Perspective

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We present international evidence on the marriage market implications of cohort size growth, and set out a theoretical model of how marriage markets adjust to imbalances. Since men marry younger women, secular growth in cohort size worsens the position of women. This effect has been substantial in many Asian countries, and in sub-Saharan Africa. Secular decline in cohort sizes, as is happening in East Asia, improves the position of women. We show that the age gap at marriage will not adjust in order to equilibrate the marriage market in response to persistent imbalances, even though it accommodates transitory shocks. This is true under transferable utility even if age preferences are relatively minor, as well as under non-transferable utility. We examine the distributional consequences on the sexes, and on dowry payments.