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9.4: Economic Aspects of Marriage

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  • Econ_aspects_marriageSM.jpg
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - Economic Aspects of Marriage (from Ember and Ember 2011: 195)

    Most marriages have some type of economic exchange associated with them. Only about 25% of marriages do not have an economic aspect (Ember and Ember 2011: 195).

    Anthropologists have identified the following practices:

    Bridewealth or Bride price: In this practice goods are transferred from the groom’s family to bride’s family in compensation for losing the productive and reproductive services of one of their daughters.

    Bride service: This entails the groom performing a service for the family of the bride. Bride service could take several months or even years to complete.

    Dowry: Dowry generally is practiced in cultures where women’s roles are less valued then men. This practice requires the transfer of goods from the bride’s family to the groom to compensate for acceptance of the responsibility of her support. This is most common in pastoral or agricultural societies where a market exchange is prevalent. Hypergamyoccurs when a woman uses her dowry to “marry up” and increase her and subsequently her children’s social status. Indirect dowry is a little like bride price. With this custom, the groom’s family gives goods to the bride’s father who in turn gifts them to his daughter.

    Woman exchange: With woman exchange, no gifts are exchanged by the families but each family gives a bride to the other family; each family loses a daughter but gains a daughter-in-law.

    Gift exchange: In this practice, the families of the betrothed exchange gifts of equal value.


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