Age of marriage and women's political engagement: Evidence from India
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Politics. 2021, Ahead of Print, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/712141 10.1086/712141
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.