DP16347 Behind the Veil of Cultural Persistence: Marriage and Divorce in a Migrant Community

Author(s): Catherine Guirkinger, Jean-Philippe Platteau, Zaki Wahhaj
Publication Date: July 2021
Date Revised: July 2021
Keyword(s): Family Economics, gender, Marriage, Non-western immigrants
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16347

Arranged marriage is a persisting practice in many migrant communities in Western Europe and North America. How can arranged marriages survive in conditions where migrants are exposed to the individualistic values and behavior patterns of the host society, and where divorce is easy and public safety nets are in place is a puzzling question. To answer it, we build a novel theory in which parents and children bargain over the choice of a spouse. We show that, perhaps paradoxically, the possibility of divorce may help preserve arranged marriage. This is especially true for women who are more constrained once married. To test the prediction of the model, we exploit a change in the divorce law in Belgium (introduction of no-fault divorce in 2007). On the basis of two unique sets of data on descendants of Turkish migrants, we find that, in line with the theoretical predictions, men's propensity to marry an imported bride decreases while the same evolution is not observed for women. If anything, the latter's propensity to marry an imported groom has increased. Similarly, men's { but not women's { propensity to divorce decreases following the law change.