Kin investment in wage-labor economies: Effects on child and marriage market outcomes

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Various human groups, from food foragers to inner-city urban Americans, have used widespread sharing of resources through kin networks as a means of buffering themselves against fluctuations in resource availability in their environments. This paper addresses the effects of progressive incorporation into a wage-labor economy on the benefits of traditional kin networks for two social classes in urban South India. Predictions regarding the effects of kin network wealth, education, and size on child and spouse characteristics and methods of financing marriages are tested using various regression techniques. Despite the rapid growth of participation in a wage-labor economy, it is found that kin network characteristics still have an important impact on investment behavior among families in Bangalore in both social classes. Network wealth is found to have a positive effect on child and spouse characteristics, and large networks are found to act as significant drains on family resources. However, the results for education are broadly consistent with an interpretation of increasing family autonomy as parents' education has a far stronger influence on child and spouse characteristics across categories than network education does. Finally, professional-class parents are found to prefer financing marriages using formal mechanisms such as savings and bank loans while working-class parents preferentially finance marriages using credit from relatives and friends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-114
Number of pages34
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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