Consanguineous marriage, kinship ecology, and market transition

Mary K. Shenk, Mary C. Towner, Emily A. Voss, Nurul Alam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This paper uses the framework of intensive and extensive kinship systems to organize and understand a large body of research on consanguineous marriage across cultures, particularly studies in demography and development that document decreasing consanguineous marriage with market integration. We argue that while agricultural subsistence is often associated with intensive kinship systems, including kin marriages, increasing engagement in a market economy prompts a shift to a more extensive kinship system and possibly a novel cultural niche. We test this model using quantitative and qualitative data from rural Matlab, Bangladesh, which is rapidly transitioning from an agricultural to a market-based economy, and find that our model is partly supported by our quantitative data and strongly supported by our qualitative data. Yet we also observe that rates of consanguineous marriage are not decreasing in Matlab, possibly as a result of a new trend toward love marriages among cousins that is replacing an earlier custom of arranged marriages among cousins focused on property and family considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S167-S180
JournalCurrent anthropology
StatePublished - Jun 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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