Forced Marriage and Birth Outcomes
We study the impact of bride kidnapping, a form of marriage practiced in Central Asia and elsewhere, on infant birth weight. Considerable debate exists as to whether kidnapping is merely ritualized elopement, or whether it involves bride coercion. To the extent that it is non-consensual, we expect adverse consequences from such marriages, working through poor spousal matching quality and subsequent psychosocial stress. Remarkable survey data from rural Kyrgyzstan enable us to explore differential outcomes for kidnapped women. We apply several estimation models, including an IV estimation in which we instrument kidnapping among young women with the district-level prevalence of kidnapping among older women and an OLS regression with district fixed effects. Our findings indicate that children born to kidnapped mothers are of a substantially lower birth weight than children born to mothers who are not kidnapped. We further find less positively assorted mating among spouses in kidnapped marriages than in other types and higher divorce rates among kidnapped women. These findings have important implications for children’s long-term development; they also discredit the ritualized-kidnapping-as-elopement view.