The Economics of Marriage and Divorce in Iran

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation consists of four chapters on the economics of marriage and divorce in Iran. The first chapter outlines major forces driving the recent transitions in Iran's marriage market. Age structure of the population, the rise of women's education, marriage and divorce laws, and fertility decline are the four main forces influencing marriage transitions, that is, the age of marriage, couple's age and education gaps, quality of marriage (stability, education status of children), and women's power within marriage.

Chapter two looks at the change in age structure that influences the sex ratio. I consider the influence of the sex ratio on couples' age and education gaps using data from multiple national surveys from 1984-2007. The findings of this chapter show that a lower sex ratio, i.e. a greater supply of marriage-age women, increases the bargaining power of men at the time of marriage and thereby increases their ability to marry younger and more educated women.

In chapter three, I evaluate the effects of demographic change, the sex ratio, and policy change, particularly the provision of family planning programs through health clinics on delayed marriage in rural Iran. I use data from Iran's 2000 Demographic and Health Survey to estimate a hazard model of timing of marriage. The results show that a lower sex ratio decreases the chances of a woman finding a man five years older, and easier access to family planning decreases her probability of marriage.

In chapter four, I provide a legal history of Iran's marriage and divorce laws and then discuss how changes in the legal structure of marriage and divorce alter the terms of marital bargaining and force women to circumvent inequitable Iranian laws to improve their position. Then, I present a model of how Mahrieh could improve a woman's position within the household in light of the unequal divorce rights favoring men. As women cannot exit their marriage, they request a conditional and legally enforceable bond known as Mahrieh from their husbands to secure themselves against the risks of divorce or maltreatment within marriage.

Marital Bargaining Model, Marriage and Divorce Laws, Marriage Age, Education Gap, Marriage Market, Age Gap, Sex Ratio, Iran, Mahrieh, Hazard Model