1 Goltishura

Early Marriage In The Philippines Essay Writing

State Marriage, Schooling, and Labor Laws

The OLS estimates presented in the previous section potentially suffer from both omitted variable bias and measurement error. One solution to these problems is to use an instrumental variables approach. Ideally, instruments would induce exogenous variation in early teen marriage but would be uncorrelated with unobserved characteristics that affect both poverty and the decision to marry young. Similarly, the instruments would induce exogenous variation in high school graduation but be orthogonal to the error term in the poverty equation. I use changes in state marriage, schooling, and labor laws over time as instruments for early marriage and dropping out of high school. By preventing some teens who would like to marry or drop out of high school from doing so, these legal restrictions can help identify the causal effects on poverty free of selection bias.

In the United States, wide variation has historically existed regarding the minimum age individuals are legally allowed to marry. The laws that regulate teenage marriage have appeared in the World Almanac and Book of Facts starting in the late 1800s. Since 1935, information has consistently been reported on the minimum marriage age with parental (or court) consent, separately for males and females. I collected this information annually for the years 1935 to 1969 for the 41 states with reliable information on marriage laws during this time period.7

There are two sets of laws specifying minimum age requirements for marriage. The first is the minimum age with parental (or court) consent, while the other is the minimum age without parental consent. In this article, I focus on the marriage age laws with parental consent, partly because there is little variation over time or across states in the laws without parental consent during the period of my data. Prior to 1971, approximately 80% of states specified an age of 18 for marriage without parental consent for women, and approximately 85% specified an age of 21 for men. In 1971, men and women were granted the right to vote at age 18, which seems to have spurred most states to change their statutes for the legal age of marriage without parental consent for both men and women to age 18. (For a discussion and an interesting analysis of these laws, see Blank, Charles, and Sallee 2008.)

Laws with parental consent do not eliminate all early teenage marriages. Some teens may find ways to lie about their age or may travel to states with lower age requirements to get married. In addition, in most states, the marriage law specifies that the courts have the right to grant exceptions to women based on “moral” and “welfare” arguments (as explained in the footnotes to tables in the World Almanac and Book of Facts, various years). These statutes imply that a judge could grant permission for an early teenage marriage if the teenage woman was pregnant. How often judges actually granted exceptions is hard to know ex post facto, but given the relatively low rate of illegitimate births and abortions during much of this period, exceptions for pregnancy were probably common.

The fact that restrictive laws do not prevent 100% of early teenage marriages does not make them invalid instruments. Rather, the strength of the instrument set is that restrictive state laws make it harder to marry young, thereby preventing some fraction of teen marriages that otherwise would have occurred.

I also use the compulsory schooling and labor laws originally collected by Acemoglu and Angrist (2001) and subsequently modified by Goldin and Katz (2003). These laws typically specify a minimum age or amount of schooling before a youth can drop out of school or obtain a work permit. Using Goldin and Katz’s approach, compulsory school attendance is defined as the minimum of (1) the required years of schooling before dropping out and (2) the difference between the minimum dropout age and the maximum enrollment age (lagged 8 years). Child labor is defined as the maximum of (1) the required years of schooling before receiving a work permit and (2) the difference between the minimum work age and the maximum enrollment age (lagged 8 years). The value of the marriage, schooling, and labor laws assigned to a woman are based on the set of laws for her birth state that are in force when she would have been age 15.

Table 2 summarizes the changes in these laws across five-year time periods (in the regression analysis, year-by-year values are used). A more detailed listing by state and year for the early marriage laws can be found in Dahl (2005), and for the compulsory schooling and child labor laws in Acemoglu and Angrist (2001) and Goldin and Katz (2003). For the period 1935–1939, 41% of states specified that a woman had to be 16 or older before marrying. Over time, several states raised their age requirements, so that by 1965–1969, 70% of states required a woman to be at least 16 before marrying. Summarizing the law changes another way, the average minimum marriage age across states was 14.6 years at the beginning of the sample period, but rose by approximately one year to 15.7 years by the end of the sample. There have also been similar increases in the requirements governing school attendance and child labor. In 1935–1939, 24% of states required at least nine years of compulsory schooling; by 1965–1969, this rose to 63% of states. Similarly, in 1935–1939, only 2% of states had a child labor requirement of nine years or more; by 1965–1969, 38% of states had such a requirement. Later in the article, I will also investigate the impact of divorce and use unilateral divorce laws as instruments, although the table reveals that few states enacted unilateral divorce laws prior to 1970.

Table 2

Summary of State Laws by Time Period, With Tests for Independence of the Laws

Table 2 also reports the results of chi-square tests for the pairwise independence of the marriage, schooling, labor, and divorce laws. These tests all strongly reject the null hypothesis that the various state laws are independent. Although not shown, the interrelated nature of the marriage and schooling/labor laws cannot be attributed solely to trends over time. After time trends in the laws are regressed out, the state laws are still highly related.

Since the marriage, schooling, and labor laws affecting youth are so highly correlated, it could be important to account for all three simultaneously when estimating instrumental variable regression models. Past research has used the compulsory schooling and child labor laws as instruments for education in models describing human capital externalities (Acemoglu and Angrist 2001), crime (Lochner and Moretti 2004), mortality (Lleras-Muney 2005), intergenerational transmission of human capital (Oreopoulos, Page, and Stevens 2006), and fertility (Black, Devereux, and Salvanes 2004; Leon 2004). In many of these applications, there may not be a need to instrument for early teen marriage. However, for some outcomes, part of the observed effects might be due to changes in marriage laws (and early marriage rates) but mistakenly attributed to changes in compulsory schooling laws (and education levels) instead. In the IV regressions that follow, I use all three sets of laws in poverty regressions that instrument for early marriage and high school completion.

The Impact of State Laws on Early Teen Marriage

How effective are state-specific marriage laws at restricting the age individuals marry? Other work has examined the effectiveness of compulsory schooling and child labor laws on high school graduation and is not repeated here (see Acemoglu and Angrist 2001; Goldin and Katz 2003; Lleras-Muney 2002; Lochner and Moretti 2004; Margo and Finegan 1996). The combined census samples reveal that restrictive laws are associated with a smaller number of early teen marriages (i.e., marriages occurring before age 16). In states with legal minima of 12–13, 14, 15, and 16+, the percentage of women who are early teen brides is, respectively, 6.5%, 4.3%, 3.5%, and 2.9%.8 Of course, these differences could partly be due to time trends or variation across states with differing laws. In the IV regressions appearing in the next section, these factors will be accounted for.

Are the laws actually reducing the number of teen marriages, or would states with restrictive laws naturally have lower teen marriage rates anyway? If states’ laws actually prevent early teen marriages, one would expect to see a jump in the number of marriages occurring immediately after the specified minimum age. I use the 1968 and 1969 Vital Statistics Marriage Detail files, which collect data from marriage certificates, to examine the timing of teen marriages.9 For women who married between the ages of 14 and 16 in 1968 or 1969, Figure 3 plots the fraction of women marrying at different ages (measured in two-month intervals) who are residents of states with different legal age minima.

Figure 3

The Timing of Marriages for Women by Type of State Marriage Law, 1968 and 1969 Vital Statistics Marriage Certificate Data

Sharp increases in the fraction marrying occur where expected, assuming the laws are enforced. For example, in states where the legal minimum is 14 years, a fair number of women actually marry at this young age. Moreover, there is not much of a jump in marriages once women turn age 15. In contrast, in states where the legal minimum is 15 years, there is a sudden rise in the number of marriages immediately after women reach the minimum age of 15. For another example, consider women marrying at age 16. In the third graph, where the legal minimum age is 16, there is a sharp and large increase in the number of marriages occurring immediately after women turn 16. In comparison, the rise surrounding age 16 is much less pronounced in states with minimum ages of 14 or especially 15.10 The graphs suggest that restrictive state laws effectively delay or prevent at least some early teen marriages.

Another way to test whether state laws impact the probability of marrying young is to see whether teens travel to a state with a lower age requirement to get married. If so, this is an indication that restrictive laws impose costs on those wishing to marry before the law in their state of residence allows. Some young teens will cross state lines, while others will be deterred by these costs. The extent to which teens cross state lines to marry in states with more permissive laws can be examined using the residence state and marriage state information in the Vital Statistics data sets.

Before looking at the entire United States, first consider the case for women residing in Tennessee. Tennessee is a long, narrow state, with population centers scattered throughout the state. Tennessee had an age requirement of 16 years for women to marry in 1968 and 1969, the period for which Vital Statistics data are available. Tennessee is bordered by eight states with varying age minima. Six of these states have valid marriage certificate and marriage law information.11 If the marriage age law at that time was binding in Tennessee, we might expect to see that those who wanted to marry earlier than the law allowed in Tennessee to travel to Alabama, Mississippi, or Missouri, where the age minimum was lower. However, we should not see as many prospective teen brides traveling to Georgia, Kentucky, or Virginia, where the age requirement of 16 was the same as in Tennessee.

The pattern of out-of-state marriages strongly supports the idea that Tennessee teens traveled to bordering states with more permissive laws in order to marry young (data not shown). Twenty-two percent of women from Tennessee who married before the age of 16 traveled to Alabama, Mississippi, or Missouri to marry, compared with only 4% who traveled to Georgia, Kentucky, or Virginia. This is not because Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri are more convenient or attractive places to get married in general, however. For Tennessee brides who married at age 16, 4% traveled to Alabama, Mississippi, or Missouri; this compares with 18% who traveled to Georgia, Kentucky, or Virginia. It appears that the set of neighboring states with an age requirement identical to Tennessee’s are the preferred marriage destinations, but that brides wishing to marry below the age of 16 go out of their way to marry in a state with a lower age requirement.12

Table 3 extends the Tennessee analysis of out-of-state marriages to all of the states in the sample. I categorize women based on the earliest age they can marry in their state of residence with their parents’ consent. I then tabulate the percentage of women who marry (1) in their state of residence, (2) in a state with a lower minimum age than their residence state, and (3) in a state with an equal or higher minimum age than their residence state. For women who married between the ages of 12 and 15, 15.3% of those living in states with a legal minimum age of 16 went to states with lower age limits to marry. In contrast, individuals living in states with legal minima of 13, 14, or 15 years were much more likely to remain in their residence state to marry (only 5% traveled outside their residence state to marry).

Table 3

Pattern of Out-of-State Marriages by Restrictiveness of State Laws, 1968 and 1969 Vital Statistics Marriage Certificate Data

Of course, the patterns observed in the top panel of Table 3 could be the result of the location of states with various laws or the general attractiveness of marrying in different states. To control for this possibility, in the middle panel of Table 3, I tabulate marriage patterns for women who married at age 16. For these women, the marriage laws should not be binding. Indeed, fewer of the women facing an age minimum of 16 left their residence states to marry. In contrast to the top panel, women in states with laws specifying a legal minimum of 16 who chose to marry outside their states of residence were much more likely to marry in states with an equal or higher minimum age law.

A simple difference-in-differences estimate makes clear that women crossed state lines to marry young. To construct the estimate, I first compare the fraction of women who married in a state with a lower minimum versus a higher minimum. Subtracting this difference for women who married between ages 12 and 15 from the difference for women who married at age 16 yields the estimate. For states with a marriage age requirement of 13 or 14, the difference in difference is close to 0 and not significant, as expected. For states with an age minimum of 15, the estimated difference in difference is 4.6% and is significantly different from 0. An even greater contrast shows up for the states specifying a minimum age of 16, with a large and significant estimate of 14.0%. These results imply that restrictive marriage laws increase the costs to potential teen brides and likely prevent some desired early teen marriages.

As a final check on the validity of the laws as instruments, I explore the timing of law changes. One potential concern is that states that pass more restrictive laws would have experienced larger reductions in early teen marriage rates even in the absence of a law change. However, if law changes are exogenous, then future values of the laws should not affect current early marriage rates conditional on current laws.13 To check this, I add the state laws in place 10 years in the future into a regression describing early teen marriage rates, where the regression also includes the current set of laws (and the full set of controls appearing in the baseline IV specification in Table 4). The results from this exercise indicate that future laws do not significantly determine current early marriage rates, while current laws do. The F statistic for the effect of future laws is 0.92 (p value = .44), while the F statistic for the effect of current laws is 14.6 (p value = .01).

Table 4

Baseline Instrumental Variables Estimates of the Effects of Early Teen Marriage and Dropping Out of High School on Poverty

What is child marriage?

How many girls are affected by child marriage?

Abuses associated with child marriage

What happens when girls seek help after suffering violence in their marriage?

What happens when girls try to resist early marriage?

What work has Human Rights Watch conducted on child marriage?

How does Human Rights Watch recommend we end the practice of child marriage? 

What is child marriage?
Child marriages occur when one or both parties are under the age of eighteen. The emerging consensus of international human rights standards is that the minimum age of marriage should be set at 18. A minimum age of marriage along with enforcement of a prohibition on forced marriage (irrespective of the age of either party) aims to protect both girls and boys from child marriage, although the practice affects girls more frequently and often coincides with other rights violations; including but not limited to domestic violence and impeded access to reproductive health care and education.

How many girls are affected by child marriage?
Every year 14 million girls are married worldwide. One in seven girls in the developing world is married before her 15th birthday – some as young as eight or nine. In 2010, over 67 million women ages 20-24 had been married as girls, and, if the trend continues, 142 million will be married by 2020.

The top twenty “hot spots” of child marriage, or countries with the highest prevalence, are: Niger, Chad, Bangladesh, Guinea, Central African Republic, Mali, Guinea, Nepal, Mozambique, Uganda, Burkina Faso, India, Ethiopia, Liberia, Yemen, Cameroon, Eritrea, Malawi, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Zambia.

Over 40 countries globally have a prevalence of child marriage of 30 per cent or higher. Two out of five girls are married as children in South Asia and Central and West Africa. Most of these girls are poor, less-educated, and living in rural areas.

Abuses associated with child marriage
Child marriages violate many human rights; including to education, freedom from violence, reproductive rights, access to reproductive and sexual health care, employment, freedom of movement, and the right to consensual marriage. The testimonies of the children and women Human Rights Watch has interviewed illustrate the profoundly detrimental impact on their physical and mental well-being, and their ability to live free of violence.

Consequences of child marriage have lasting effects beyond adolescence as they struggle with the health effects of getting pregnant too young and too often, their lack of education and economic independence, domestic violence, and marital rape.

Health-related consequences
Child marriage directly threatens the health and well-being of girls: complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15-19 in developing countries. Girls aged 15 to 20 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their 20s, and girls under the age of 15 are five times as likely to die.

These consequences are due largely to girls’ physical immaturity where the pelvis and birth canal are not fully developed. Complications in labor are exacerbated where emergency obstetric services are scarce, as is the case in many societies where child marriage is prevalent.

Pregnancy for adolescent girls poses a serious risk of developing obstetric fistula, since their smaller pelvises make them prone to obstructed labor. Fistula leaves its victims with urine or fecal incontinence that causes infection, pain, and a bad smell.

A child born to a girl under 18 has a 60 percent greater chance of dying in the first year of life than one born to a woman 19 and older.

Education-related consequences
Child marriage frequently ends a girl’s education forever. Girls who marry young are often expected to take on responsibilities at home that are prioritized over attending school.

A lack of education limits girls' choices and opportunities throughout their lives, not just when they are children. The price of this exclusion is often poverty. In Yemen, one girl who married at the age of 12 told Human Rights Watch:

All that I’m good for is to be a mother, and a home maker.... I’m illiterate. They didn’t teach us anything. If they did, at least I would have benefitted from something.

Without education, girls and adult women have fewer opportunities to financially provide for themselves and their families. Research shows how limited education may make girls and women more vulnerable to persistent poverty when their spouses die, abandon, or divorce them.

Violence against married girls
Married girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 with low levels of education are at a much greater risk of domestic and sexual violence from their spouses than older and more educated women. Research cites spousal age difference, typical of child marriage, as a significant risk factor associated with violence and sexual abuse against girls.

Marital rape is common in South Sudan, although it is not recognized by law. One girl told us her husband raped her, aided by his brothers:

I had refused to have sex with him, but he forced me. My brothers-in-law used to lock me up in the house during the day so that I don’t go anywhere, and so that I can have sex with him.

Another told Human Rights Watch that her husband physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her. She said:

I had fibroids and was in a lot of pain. Sex was painful. If I told my husband I had pain, he would get out shouting that he was going to look for sex elsewhere because I had refused him. Sometimes he would have sex with me anyway.

In 2010, the case of Elham Mahdi Al-Assi, a 12-year-old girl in Yemen, caught international media attention when she died three days after she was married to a much older man. Her death was the result of severe bleeding caused by tears to her genital and anal area. Elham's mother told the Associated Press that her daughter had complained that her husband tied her up and raped her. This was after Elham’s mother warned her that failure to consummate the marriage would bring her family shame.

Non-consensual sex can have especially devastating mental health consequences for young girls because they are at a formative stage of psychological development. Child brides also often face emotional abuse and discrimination in the homes of their husbands and in-laws. Confined to a home that may be removed from their hometown and familiar surroundings, they are isolated from friends and family.

What happens when girls seek help after suffering violence in their marriage?
International human rights standards recognize the right of women and girls to live free from physical, mental, and sexual violence. However, in many countries where child marriage is an accepted practice, governments also fail to criminalize domestic violence and marital rape. Girls in child marriages, already vulnerable due to their age and alienated due to their gender and low social status, are thus denied the protection from their governments they so greatly need.

Child marriage is more prevalent in jurisdictions that generally offer fewer protections for women and girls. Yemen currently has no minimum age for marriage and girls of any age can and are being married. After her husband raped her, 11-year-old Reem al-Numeri in Yemen attempted to seek a divorce only to be told by the judge “we don’t divorce little girls.”

Where legal provisions do exist to protect girls from child marriage or related forms of violence, authorities often fail to enforce that protection or to prosecute perpetrators. Cases of domestic violence in Afghanistan show that many women and girls are afraid to seek help from justice or security departments because they fear further abuse or being forcibly returned home.

Rangina Y., married at the age of 13 in Afghanistan, explained her distrust for courts and judges. After running away from the physical and verbal abuse of her in-laws, she faced pressure from President Karzai, hostility from powerful members of parliament and extralegal arguments by the head of the Family Court to return to her husband. Rangina Y. told Human Rights Watch: “I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back. They want to kill me.” Failing to receive protection and enforcement of national marriage laws, women and girls in situations such as Rangina’s have little reason to trust the state or government to protect them.

What happens when girls try to resist early marriage?
Girls who refuse to accept or stay in forced marriages, or who elope because they want to marry someone not chosen or approved of by their families, are often at risk of violence, imprisonment, and in extreme cases, may be killed by their families or husbands.

In South Sudan, local women’s rights organizations pointed out to Human Rights Watch that society is generally tolerant of such punishment because the girl is seen as having gone against her family’s wishes and societal norms. As a result, perpetrators are rarely held to account, perpetuating a culture of violence against women in the country.

One South Sudanese girl, who married at 15, told Human Rights Watch that she was in year five of school and wanted to finish her education, but her uncles beat her and her mother to force her to marry a 75-year-old man:

This man went to my uncles and paid a dowry of 80 cows. I resisted the marriage. They threatened me. They said, “If you want your siblings to be taken care of, you will marry this man.” I said he is too old for me. They said, “You will marry this old man whether you like it or not because he has given us something to eat.” They beat me so badly. They also beat my mother because she was against the marriage.

Eleven girls Human Rights Watch spoke to in South Sudan said their families restricted their movements after they became engaged. One told Human Rights Watch:

I am now confined at home. My family does not allow me to leave home because they think I will get another man…. I don’t even go to the market anymore or see my friends.

Another problem in protecting victims of forced marriage and enabling them to access justice is lack of coordination between relevant government ministries. For example, in South Sudan, Human Rights Watch documented that there are no guidelines on how the authorities should handle these cases, and ministries respond to cases in an ad hoc manner, often without offering any real solutions to the girls who go to them for protection. In the end, their inefficiency helps perpetuate child marriages and related abuses against girls.

What work has Human Rights Watch conducted on child marriage?
Human Rights Watch has cited cases of child marriage in Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, India, Iraq, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Uganda, and Uzbekistan, and interviewed women and girls who experienced child marriage in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Yemen, and most recently South Sudan, where we found that almost half of the girls 15-19 were married.

Human Rights Watch is also a member of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

How does Human Rights Watch recommend we end the practice of child marriage?
Governments can mitigate some of the worst abuses linked to child marriage by:
- Setting and enforcing a minimum age for marriage at 18;
- Requiring verification of the full and meaningful consent of both spouses;
- Establishing and enforcing compulsory marriage registers;
- Prosecuting perpetrators of forced marriage;
- Ensuring that marriages concluded under force may be voided, annulled, or dissolved without undue burden placed on the victim(s);
- Safeguard by law a victim’s right to seek financial compensation after voiding, annulling, divorcing, or otherwise dissolving the marriage and protect the rights of children born out of such a marriage;
- Providing training to law enforcement officials on gender discrimination and violence against women, including investigations into child marriages;
- Recognizing marital rape as a criminal offense;
- Increasing access to education for girls, including by providing incentives for families to keep their daughters in school;
- Increasing and improving access to reproductive healthcare for all girls and women in rural and urban areas by allocating greater resources from national health expenditure and more personnel;
- Ensuring that access to emergency obstetric care, including monitoring of labor, trained birth attendants, newborn care, and contraception, is available to all girls and women in rural and urban areas;
- Raising awareness among health workers and the public on the importance of registering births, including home deliveries;
- And providing continuing formal education and vocational training opportunities for married girls and women.

More Reading


Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *