Persisting young age at first marriage among women in India

Gitanjali Pande, Fordham University


The purpose of this study is to examine the determinants of age at first marriage in India, and to identify the most influential variables. Identifying key determinants is critical in a country like India, which has young ages at marriage and immense regional and residential diversity. It is also an important policy issue with both individual and societal consequences. I analyze variables affecting age at marriage by urban and rural residence separately. To achieve this objective, I utilize the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of India: 1992–93 (IIPS, 1995) which contains a national representative sample of 89,777 ever-married women of ages 13–49. I use the multiple linear regression method with the ordinary least squares (OLS) estimator to analyze this data with the ultimate aim of arriving at parsimonious urban and rural model and a final hierarchical model with interaction effects. Major findings are first, the model for urban women accounted for substantially more of the explained variation in age at first marriage than the model for rural women. Second, rural women with twelve or more years of education married significantly earlier than urban women with the same level of education. Further modeling showed that the payoff for more than twelve years of education is stronger among urban than rural women. Third, urban Muslim women married significantly later than rural Muslim women. Fourth, urban and rural women in the north married earlier than urban and rural women in the south. These findings suggest that an urgent need for development policy that can provide alternatives to early marriage, especially in rural areas. Not just primary and secondary education, but the availability of and access to higher levels of education can contribute significantly to delays in age at first marriage. In addition, regional differences in age at first marriage especially between the north and south, suggest a need to develop region-specific policies that give women the option to exercise alternatives to early marriage.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Demographics|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Pande, Gitanjali, "Persisting young age at first marriage among women in India" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3116866.