How love conquered (arranged) marriage

Gabriela Rubio of UC Merced has a very interesting paper (pdf) on this topic:

Using a large number of sources, this paper documents the sharp and continuous decline of arranged marriages (AM) around the world during the past century, and describes the factors associated with this transition. To understand these patterns, I construct and empirically test a model of marital choices that assumes that AM serve as a form of informal insurance for parents and children, whereas other forms of marriage do not. In this model, children accepting the AM will have access to insurance but might give up higher family income by constraining their geographic and social mobility. Children in love marriages (LM) are not geographically/socially constrained, so they can look for the partner with higher labor market returns, and they can have access to better remunerated occupations. The model predicts that arranged marriages disappear when the net benefits of the insurance arrangement decrease relative to the (unconstrained) returns outside of the social network. Using consumption and income panel data from the Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS), I show that consumption of AM households does not vary with household income (while consumption of LM households does), consistent with the model’s assumption that AM provides insurance. I then empirically test the main predictions of the model. I use the introduction of the Green Revolution (GR) in Indonesia as a quasi-experiment. First, I show that the GR increased the returns to schooling and lowered the variance of agricultural income. Then, I use a difference-in-difference identification strategy to show that cohorts exposed to the GR experienced a faster decline in AM as predicted by the theoretical framework. Second, I show the existence of increasing divorce rates among couples with AM as their insurance gains vanish. Finally, using the exogenous variation of the GR, I find that couples having an AM and exposed to the program were more likely to divorce, consistent with the hypothesis of declining relative gains of AM.

MR referenced this paper in an addendum some while ago, Michael Clemens on Twitter recently reminded me of its existence.  One question of course is to what extent the arranged marriage is the only marriage form which provides these insurance benefits.  In other words, the arranged marriage might go away, but without the love marriage triumphing.  Perhaps one key change is that the parents are no longer the best producers of those financial insurance benefits, but that is distinct from the triumph of love.


A big question for understanding world history is why were non-noble English into love marriages already by the high middle ages?

Why is that a big question for understanding world history? It would probably be an interesting topic to write a paper on, but it doesn't seem to be all that world shattering.

Tory cabinet secretary David Willett's book "The Pinch" has a lot on how the peculiarities of British family life affected its liberties. Here's a brief bit:

“Instead, think of England as being like this for at least 750 years. We live in small families. We buy and sell houses. … Our parents expect us to leave home for paid work …You try to save up some money from your wages so that you can afford to get married. … You can choose your spouse … It takes a long time to build up some savings from your work and find the right person with whom to settle down, so marriage comes quite lately, possibly in your late twenties.“

Isn' this basically the same question as why does the Hajnal Line exist?


I think I know why you're asking the question. But, if anything, wouldn't arranged marriages induce *more* selection for bourgeois traits like low discount rates and so forth? That's about all parents have to go on, after all.

Consanguinity rules (no marrying cousins) + property individualism (so marry later).

It doesn't really help us understand world history. It's just asserted that this must have something to do with the Industrial Revolution or something i.e. post hoc ergo propter hoc. Furthermore, the ancient Athenians achieved far more than the English, and arranged and early marriage was the custom in Athens. Girls were betrothed at age 5 and would marry at around 15.

"the ancient Athenians achieved far more than the English..."

I'm not sure I'd be comfortable claiming that. Though nor would I be comfortable claiming the converse.

[Obviously, I'm English.]

Here's a question for the student. Is the insistence on many Israeli Jews to inter-marry and it's inevitable exclusionary political consequences going to eventually lead to the demise of Israel. If so, is it deserved?

Who would they intermarry with? All they have is Arabs.

An interesting question, but terribly executed, with severe problems with identification of the effects. The bar for quality is low at MR, promoting poorly-identified answers to sexy questions. Bravo.

I would say that the assessment of chipmunks and that of Art Deco are generous. Any number of hypotheses will give the result that higher income and less uncertainty will lead to fewer arranged marriages. And why should non-arranged marriages lose insurance? I can't think of a good reason. Availability of co-insurance on the small scale described is certainly not going to lead to zero correlation between income and consumption. Etc.

My model is as follows: Love marriages occur only in the presence of love. Love is generated by a winged, cherubic figure named Cupid, who shoots an arrow through the heart of the prospective lover. Cupid is both spoiled and hypersensitive. He is drawn to wealthy and stable households. Voila! My hypothesis is confirmed by the data.

If love marriages were correlated with income level but not stability, I would conclude that Cupid is indeed spoiled but that the hypersensitive hypotheses is rejected.

But she is pretty

Seems reasonable that arranged marriages provide more insurance (especially) to the parents of married couple as well as (but less so) to the married couple, that is, the income pool supporting those associated with the arranged marriage is larger (more diversified and thus less volatile) than other marriages. Presumably this is why the parents have a role in arranging the marriage.

I will grant you that there is probably a continuum between an arranged marriage and your Cupid-marriages and many non-arranged marriages provide (and are chose for) insurance to some extent.

Presumably this is why the parents have a role in arranging the marriage.

Again, you take for granted economic motives which have to be demonstrated.

No, sir. Love marriages occur in the course of building a domestic life together. At the point of departure, they might conceivably be arranged by relatives or they might be a consequence of all the ethereal reasons people have to be attracted to each other. Either way, it's an adventure.

Episode #697 of economists bored with studying economic phenomena invading some other field and producing caricatures of social research.

I am not going to say this is an economist-only topic, but marriage as a form of insurance, maybe even social insurance, is economics-ready study. I have not read the above paper, but I liked the marriage-as-insurance view in this paper "on the importance of family labour supply as an insurance mechanism to wage shocks" that finds "strong evidence of smoothing of male’s and female’s permanent shocks to wages" Moreover, the evolution of the marriage contract seems like something perfectly reasonable for economists to be studying too without diminishing the other fields of study.

Madam, the family is an economy and families have budgets. That's an aspect of family life. One is likely ill-advised to conceive of family life as reducible to these items, certainly without a lively sense of the limits of what you can understand with these methods.

Reductionism contributes to knowledge, albeit just a little. But, if you consider it is useless, which is a better approach to understand the transition from AM to LM?

It is my view that marriage also creates insurance during early household formation, insurance that allows for better human capital formation (e.g. advanced degree completion, educational debt, savings goals etc.) that leads to higher lifetime earnings. The societal move towards later marriage and non-marriage will surely lower future household wealth.

I'm going to +1 this even though I'm not actually confident it's right. Notably, it seems to ignore divorce risks.

But my purely anecdotal experiences suggest that the younger marriages I know are also the healthiest and that it's those late marriages that are least stable. (I'm comparing early-20s to late-30s here. Even if my observation is correct, causality could run all sorts of ways. The stereotype is that people who marry late are too set in their ways, but maybe people who can't get married until they're 38 are just bad at relationships.)

AM is still practiced today, but it belongs to a social reality that is incomprehensible in a world where SSM is regarded as a no-brainer. Ross Douthat did a terrific job of explaining this in his series on SSM last year.

SSM = same-sex marriage?

So, will we see some cultures where the parents try to arrange the marriage of their gay son to the gay son of some other appropriate, respectable family?

Mr. Sailer is correct. Those familiar with the work of Alan MacFarlane and Emmanuel Todd know why. If you are not try this or this. What will be interesting to see is how the move from AM to LM affects family structure.

I still see Indian parents, both in the U.S. and India, trying to arrange marriages of their children, but nowadays their children get to meet the prospective spouse and have a veto. Coerced arranged marriages are a bad idea, but I doubt that the almost total non-involvement of parents in the West is optimal either.

Aye. Those I know who've been there said little or nothing because they thought it would backfire or exacerbate matters to attempt to derail a marriage of which they disapproved. I know one woman who did persuade her son to break off a pre-engagement in 1986.

Like anything, moving from one sort of practice to another is beneficial for people with certain dispositions and injurious to people with other dispositions.

"Johny Americason, you shouldn't marry Betty, you should marry Veronica instead."
"Mum, how the heck can you expect me to take your advice on marriage seriously when you've been divorced twice and you should have divorced my father sooner because your bickering made my early childhood miserable?"
"Son, I have no witty comeback to make in response to that brutally honest observation."

On the contrary, someone who has been divorced twice probably at least has some clear ideas of ways marriages van go badly.

Yes, but mumsy doesn't convey that advice, she acts as though divorce is not even a possibility and seems focused on creating the perfect union. (Of course, in reality she may cynically expect a divorce whether Betty or Veronica is married and is pushing for Veronica since her family is loaded.)

"I still see Indian parents, both in the U.S. and India, trying to arrange marriages of their children, but nowadays their children get to meet the prospective spouse and have a veto."

I believe this has been the norm in Japan since WWII. But stories of marriages arranged in childhood still appear as a theme in pop culture.

Err, no, that's not how.

In the long term, love marriage might be understood as the transition towards the dissolution of marriage altogether.

The English in the high Middle Ages onwards deferred marriage until their late 20's, then modern Western man defers it until his 30's, then it's deferred indefinitely like a Raisin in the Sun. The end-state might optimistically be Scandinavian co-habitation but more likely may be something more rudimentary than that.

Who's more bourgeois in America today - the South Asian immigrant who partakes in an arranged marriage or the ghetto African American or rural white person who never marries at all?

As an aside, I note that the original Japanese Gojira (1954) was as much about a conflict between arranged marriage and love marriage as it was about atomic radiation. That aspect of the plot was all but eliminated in the 1956 American version, Godzilla: King of Monsters, and in subsequent remakes. The Pretty Young Thing, Emiko, was in love with the Dashing Young Man, Ogata, who was a diver with the salvage company going after the ship Gojira had sunk. But she was betrothed as a child to the Not-so Mad Scientist, Serizawa. When Serizawa decides to deliver his Secret Deadly Weapon to Gojira in a way that requires him to commit suicide, that problem is solved. But since everyone in the audience has been effectively distracted by the monster plot, the marriage plot slips through almost unnoticed.

I am not a social scientist. I have the impression that in my clade arranged marriage was a facilitation of the inevitable to a large extent. My grandparents had an arranged marriage that united two young people from the same community, the same economic class, and similiar future prospects but did not cross the community standards against incest nor feuds. We have stories about Montagues and Capulets and Prince and charwomen, but the reality is that like marries like.
I think that the null hypothesis should be the default unless overturned by powerful evidence.

My name is Kenzie rose from Malaysia My boyfriend and I were happy as far as I could tell and I never thought that we would break up. When his cousin died in a tragic car accident he went back to London for a week to be with his family. I could not go because I was in the middle of entertaining out of town clients for work. He did not seem to be upset that I could not go so I let him be. The next thing that I know, he reconnected with an old friend from high school that he had a crush on years ago and they started to have an affair! I had no clue what was going on until a month after he came back from Philippine.He proceeded to see both her and I until I caught him testing her one night. I confronted him and he told me the truth about what happened. We broke up and went our separate ways. Neither of us fought for our relationship. I was angry and decided not to be upset about it and just keep it moving. Then after about a month of not speaking to him I became sad. I wanted him to tell me that he wanted to be with me and not her. I contacted Dr.ATILA for a love spell and he totally helped me! he was able to get him to miss me to where he wanted to get back together again. He had a lot of regrets and felt bad for not fighting to keep me and for cheating in general. He values our relationship so much more now and we are together now! You can also get your lover back with the help of Dr.ATILA contact him through his .or call +2348181151548.

Comments for this post are closed