Marry for What: Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Maitreesh Ghatak, Jeanne Lafortune

NBER Working Paper No. 14958
Issued in May 2009
NBER Program(s):Children

This paper studies the role played by caste, education and other social and economic attributes in arranged marriages among middle-class Indians. We use a unique data set on individuals who placed matrimonial advertisements in a major newspaper, the responses they received, how they ranked them, and the eventual matches. We estimate the preferences for caste, education, beauty, and other attributes. We then compute a set of stable matches, which we compare to the actual matches that we observe in the data. We find the stable matches to be quite similar to the actual matches, suggesting a relatively frictionless marriage market. One of our key empirical findings is that there is a very strong preference for within-caste marriage. However, because both sides of the market share this preference and because the groups are fairly homogeneous in terms of the distribution of other attributes, in equilibrium, the cost of wanting to marry within-caste is low. This allows caste to remain a persistent feature of the Indian marriage market.

download in pdf format
   (877 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14958

Published: Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo & Maitreesh Ghatak & Jeanne Lafortune, 2013. "Marry for What? Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 33-72, May. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Chakraborty and Kim w13828 Caste, Kinship and Sex Ratios in India
Becker A Theory of Marriage
Munshi and Rosenzweig w14850 Why is Mobility in India so Low? Social Insurance, Inequality, and Growth
Banerjee and Duflo w14467 The Experimental Approach to Development Economics
Jensen Caste, Culture, and the Status and Well-Being of Widows in India
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us