, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 1401–1423 | Cite as

Forced Marriage and Birth Outcomes

  • Charles M. Becker
  • Bakhrom Mirkasimov
  • Susan SteinerEmail author


We study the impact of marriages resulting from bride kidnapping on infant birth weight. Bride kidnapping—a form of forced marriage—implies that women are abducted by men and have little choice other than to marry their kidnappers. Given this lack of choice over the spouse, we expect adverse consequences for women in such marriages. Remarkable survey data from the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan enable exploration of differential birth outcomes for women in kidnap-based and other types of marriage using both OLS and IV estimation. We find that children born to mothers in kidnap-based marriages have lower birth weight compared with children born to other mothers. The largest difference is between kidnap-based and arranged marriages: the magnitude of the birth weight loss is in the range of 2 % to 6 % of average birth weight. Our finding is one of the first statistically sound estimates of the impact of forced marriage and implies not only adverse consequences for the women involved but potentially also for their children.


Forced marriage Bride kidnapping Birth weight Kyrgyzstan 



We thank four anonymous referees, Giovanna d’Adda, Victor Agadjanian, Kathryn Anderson, Bezawit Beyene Chichaibelu, Christopher Edling, Damir Esenaliev, Bernd Fitzenberger, Urakorn Fuderich, Adrian Garcia-Mosqueira, Robert Garlick, Priscilla Hermida, Aliya Ibragimova, Joshua Jacobs, Olga Kozlova, Bohdan Krawchenko, Natalia Kyui, Friederike Lenel, Sabine Liebenehm, Nathan Light, Mieke Meurs, Luciano Mauro, Huon Morton, Akylai Muktarbek kyzy, Dan Oldman, Kani Omurzakova, Sultan Omurzakov, Klara Sabirianova Peter, Daniel Schnitzlein, Cathy Starkweather, Artem Streltsov, Sebastian Vollmer, and Marlene Waske for helpful comments. We also received crucial feedback from participants of workshops, seminars, and conferences at the American University of Central Asia, El Colegio de Mexico, Humboldt University of Berlin, Leibniz Universität Hannover, University of Hamburg, University of Göttingen, University of Freiburg, and the New Economics School. We are grateful to the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam for providing us with altitude data. All errors, omissions, and faulty interpretations remain our own.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles M. Becker
    • 1
  • Bakhrom Mirkasimov
    • 2
    • 3
  • Susan Steiner
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Westminster International University in Tashkent (WIUT)TashkentUzbekistan
  3. 3.University of Central Asia (UCA)BishkekKyrgyz Republic
  4. 4.Institute for Development and Agricultural EconomicsLeibniz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)BonnGermany

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