In the midst of researching the economic downsides of bride prices, we came across this recent study from Tanzania, where money always changes hands before a young couple’s nuptials. As noted in the chart above, girls who toil in the fields attract far greater bride prices than peers who stick close to home:
Using an instrumental variables strategy, we show that child labor in agricultural activities is significantly associated with better outcomes in terms of family wealth, particularly for physical assets, land, and bride prices. Although preliminary, our results suggest that agricultural work by children is being positively valued on the marriage market, whereas household child labor work is being penalized.
It’s easy to see why this is the case: agriculture is by far the biggest component of Tanzania’s economy. But if bride prices were abolished, would families be less inclined to put their daughters to work in the fields? That would seem to be a long-term good for a nation looking to decrease its reliance on farming.