Discussion Papers

No.537 Better than Nothing? Dowry in the Absence of the Legal Protection of Women’s Inheritance Rights

by MAKINO Momoe

October 2015


The practice of dowry is often thought to be the root cause of the unequal treatment of women in India. For women without inheritance rights, however, dowry may function as their only source of protection. Using a nationwide dataset and exploiting a natural experimental situation, this study explores the effects of dowry on women’s empowerment in India, a society where women do not have inheritance rights. In such a society, dowry seems to enhance women’s status in the marital household. The effects reverse when women have equal inheritance rights as their brothers. Empirical analysis suggests that the outright ban on dowry that ignores the context may not necessarily benefit women.

Keywords: Dowry, Women’s empowerment, Inheritance rights, Amendment, India
JEL classification: J12, J16, K11, N35, Z13

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