Friday, January 20, 2023

Economic Consequences of Kinship: Evidence from US Bans on Cousin Marriage

Economic Consequences of Kinship: Evidence from US Bans on Cousin Marriage. Arkadev Ghosh, Sam Il Myoung Hwang, Munir Squires. January 18, 2023.

Abstract—Close-kin marriage, by sustaining tightly-knit family structures, may impede development. We find support for this hypothesis using US state bans on cousin marriage. Our measure of cousin marriage comes from the excess frequency of same-surname marriages, a method borrowed from population genetics that we apply to millions of marriage records from the 18th to the 20th century. Using census data, we first show that married cousins are more rural and have lower-paying occupations. We then turn to an event study analysis to understand how cousin marriage bans affected outcomes for treated birth cohorts. We find that these bans led individuals from families with high rates of cousin marriage to migrate off farms and into urban areas. They also gradually shift to higher-paying occupations. We also observe increased dispersion, with individuals from these families living in a wider range of locations and adopting more diverse occupations. Our findings suggest that these changes were driven by the social and cultural effects of dispersed family ties rather than genetics. Notably, the bans also caused more people to live in institutional settings for the elderly, infirm or destitute, suggesting weaker support from kin.

JEL: D00, N00.

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