Age of marriage and women's political engagement: Evidence from India
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Although decades have passed since most women in the democratic world gained the right to vote and run for election, a large gender gap in political participation persists, particularly in developing countries. This short paper considers an important—and previously overlooked—factor limiting the political engagement of many women in the developing world: marriage age. Drawing on nationally representative data from India and instrumenting marriage age with menarche age, we find delaying marriage has substantial positive effects on women’s everyday political participation. A standard deviation increase in marriage age makes a woman 25 percent more likely to attend local council meetings, and 8 percent more likely to discuss politics with her husband. Exploring mechanisms, we show that education and time—rather than employment, mobility, and household decision-making power—appear to be the main channels. These findings underscore the critical role of early marriage in impeding women’s participation in the political sphere.