16 March 2016

The Golden Cage: Stability of the institution of marriage in India - K. Srinivasan and K.S. James






The Golden Cage: Stability of the institution of marriage in India
K. Srinivasan[1] and K.S. James[2]
I. Introduction
The institution of marriage under which reproduction is expected to take place across most cultures and religious groups over centuries is found to be breaking down, rather pretty fast, in the western societies. There is a growing concern that similar situation may spread across the globe (Inglehart,1970, 1985; Lesthaeghe, 2002, 2010; Weiss, 1975, 1979).  According to statistics compiled by the United Nations on marriage (United Nations, 2012), a very high  proportion of women in the age group 30-34 reported to be unmarried in many west European countries and the United States. In 2009, it was 48.7% in France, 47.8% in the United Kingdom and 26.3 % in the USA. Many of these women reported to be unmarried legally are living with their partners in conjugal relationships called, ‘live-in’ arrangements. Live-in arrangements are cohabitations without formal marriage between the sexes and even of persons in the same sex and have become an alternative to formal marriage, at least on a temporary basis in many western countries.  Evidence of this comes from the fact that in the decade (2001-10) more than 50 % of the births in England occurred to un-married women. Even among married women the divorce rates are rising rapidly. Even in 1979, there was approximately one divorce for every two marriages in the United States. It was considered that all these developments are the direct consequences of demographic transition and all nations will eventually have to experience the ‘second demographic transition’ of changes of such nature (Lesthaeghe, 2010).  
But against the European experience, the East Asian countries with rapid demographic transition show a different pattern of marriage and divorce. There is far greater stability of marriage and far lower incidence of divorce in these countries. At the same time, one of the major changes observed in these countries is the proportion remaining never married. For instance, in the age group 30-34, the percentage single was 19 per cent in Korea and 35 per cent in Japan in 2009.  On the contrary, the only 1.6 per cent of the children are born out of wedlock in South Korea in 2007 and negligible in India, while in the United States nearly 40 percent of babies born out of wedlock. Though the percentage single in Japan and Korea is relatively high, there are practically no births outside marriage in these countries.  Even the live-in relationship in Japan is quite low at 2 per cent among women 20 years and above as against 14 per cent in France, 9 per cent in UK.
    Undoubtedly, the form and nature of marriage and family life have changed over the past decades in the western societies as well as in East Asia but through different pathways. Reproduction is getting delinked from marriage in the West while in East Asia remaining single has become more of a norm resulting in far below replacement level fertility in these countries. “Live-in” arrangements are becoming wide spread and even among legal marriages divorces are more common in the West while such changes are rare in East Asia although increasing at a rapid pace in recent times.
A great deal of social science research has been focused on the topics of marriage and divorce and research into these areas have led to the identification of some of the major factors contributing to the breakdown of this institution in the west. The formulation of second demographic transition theory has been an outcome of the empirical examination of such trends across countries (Lesthaeghe, 2010; Lesthaeghe et al., 2006). To quote Lesthaeghe, “during the first demographic transition (FDT), the decline in fertility was unleashed by an enormous sentimental and financial investment in the child (i.e., the “king child era” to use Ari├Ęs’s term), whereas the motivation during the second demographic transition (SDT) is adult self realization within the role or life style as a parent or more complete and fulfilled adult”. The breakdown in the institution of marriage seems to have commenced in the ‘sixties of the twentieth century and is continuing unabated. Some scholars have postulated that this would eventually happen even in Asian countries (Lesthaeghe, 2010)
According to available literature among the major causes for breakdown of marriage four have been emphasised though not exhaustive: viz., 1) rise of individualism 2) the economic independence of women and rising cost of marriage for women iii) skill specializations and 4) movement towards gender equality   and all of them were facilitated by the discovery and easy availability of female contraceptives. We will briefly describe them below.
a)  Rise of Individualism: The spread of individualism in most aspects of one’s life was observed by many as early as in the middle of the last century. While studying the American families Kuhn (1955) observed that individualism is not just limited to one cause but is the result of several factors such as protestantism, capitalism and breakdown of inherited and ascribed relationship.
  b)    Costs of marriage: Yet another reason identified for the breakdown of marriage is the cost of family formation. According to Becker (1960, 1996) and many other economists all human decisions including personal ones are ultimately based on an economic cost benefit analysis whether done overtly or not. When the society is economically backward it makes economic sense to marry and have children to add to the labor force of the family and living in one house reduces costs. When the society develops and costs of rearing children rises parents want to control their family size and the decisions are euphemistically put as “Baby or Baby Austin”. When the society becomes economically more advanced and women have good employment potential with specialized skills the costs of marriage for a woman far outweigh the economic benefits.
c): Specialization of skills:  There is growing specialization of skills occurring as the natural bye product of rapid economic development and consumerism that is taking place in the western societies and this trend is occurring in the developing countries as well with a time lag. Specialization is seen in terms of employment, education, and health care and social services. Even in schools and colleges the courses offered for study are becoming varied and specialized. Similarly in manufacturing, distribution of goods and services, health care, banking and other services. Many responsibilities have been transferred from the family to these specialized services like homes for the aged, security services, maintenance services etc. (Desai and Dubey, 2011). The traditional functions of  the family has been taken over by non-familial institutions as a part of the social and economic development of the country  and marriage has become the casualty of this over specialization.
d) Gender equality: Most of the societies in the world in the east or in the west have been based on patriarchy for centuries where women played a secondary or subordinate role to men. This situation has dramatically changed in many parts of the world the over the past century with women getting more and more educated, economically gainfully employed, politically empowered and women’s movements throughout the world arguing for gender equality in all aspects of human existence. Their equity and equality have been demanded as a fundamental aspect of human rights. Powerful feminist movements in Europe and USA have written about and argued for women’s freedom to shape their own lives. The institution of marriage was considered by many as a hindrance on securing gender equity and equality.  Many argue that marriage and family have tended to contribute to gender inequities and those aspire for female autonomy and gender equity found the institution of marriage a remnant of patriarchal system.
II. Objectives of the study
It is possible that each of the contributory factors that operated towards the decline of the institution of marriage is not relevant to the Indian cultural context and the institution of marriage is relatively stable in India as yet. However fears have been expressed from different quarters that what began in the west and extended to other parts of the world will definitely occur in India and there are already signs and symptoms (Lesthaghe 2010; Srinivasan 2014). A web-based survey of the population professionals in India was carried out during October 2013 to January 2014 by the senior author mainly to ascertain their views on various population related issues and policies and programs in the country since 1951. A question was also asked of their view or perception on the stability of the institution of marriage in India. The survey was carried out using the “Survey Monkey” web and a sample of 242 professionals in the field which was just 15% of the professionals to whom the questionnaire was sent was covered. A sample of non-respondents was also later surveyed to get just their background details in order to assess the differences between the distributions of the respondents and non-respondents. Since there were no significant differences between the two distributions on a number of variables the author decided to proceed with an analysis.
 The analysis, against the expectation, showed that more than half of the respondents (53%) perceived marriage as “an institution within which child bearing should take place” will break down in India also and child bearing will eventually be delinked from marriage. The other 47% perceive that this will not happen at any time in the future. Though this finding is based on a small sample of population professionals constituting only just a small segment which may not reflect the real picture, it has rung some alarm bells on the future of marriages in India.
This paper, therefore, looks into the patterns of marriage in India with twin objectives in mind. First, it analyses the changes in the marital distributions in India , especially the proportions single and currently married  and previously married among women to study the secular trends in their distributions and explore  whether there is already a trend of imminent breakdown in the institutor of marriage  as is happening in Western societies. Second, the paper compares the trends in marital status distributions in India and Japan with those in France, UK and USA and wish to interpret the data on later age at marriage and larger proportion of women remaining single till the end of the reproductive period. As marriage has deep cultural roots and origin and has foundation in the caste system, the factors that are contributing to the breakdown of marriage may be different in India and is also examined in brief.
 
III.   Data Used and methods of analysis
In this study, which is to be considered as a precursor of studies to be followed on the same topic with more focused investigations, we analyze the data on marital status distributions at two levels; the macro and micro levels. At the macro level we used the data compiled from the population censuses in India and four selected states from 1961 to 2011.  For state level analysis we selected   Bihar, Kerala Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.  Kerala and Tamil Nadu are considered to be more developed states, socially and economically; while Bihar and Uttar Pradesh represent the less developed states. In terms of Human Development Index (HDI)  values estimated at the state level for 23 states of India by the Planning Commission of India in March 2014 based on 2007-08 values,  Kerala ranked No. 1, Tamil Nadu - 8, Uttar Pradesh- 18 and Bihar -21. For the micro level analysis we used the data collected at the individual level in the National Sample Survey-3 in India during 2005-06 for India and the four selected states
  We also compiled data on the reported marital status of women in four developed countries, France, Japan, UK and USA as available in the data sets published by the United Nations in their latest set  “ World  Marriage Prospects -2014” for the years 1970 to 2010 . These data based on their population censuses and surveys   carried out between 1970 and 2010 are tabulated and given in Table 3. Table 3 A  provides the data for France , Table 3 B for Japan , Table 3 C for UK and Table 3 D for USA. The exact year to which these data relate for India and the countries are in given at the end of Table 4, that provides the Singulate Mean Age at Marriage (SMAM) values of these countries along with that of India for comparison purposes.
IV. Indicators of Changes in Marriage Pattern
The study has used many conventional indicators like percentage remaining single, mean age at marriage and divorce rate for understanding the changes in marriage patterns in India in comparison to the developed countries.
a) Single or Unmarried women in India
Table 1 presents percentage of females remaining single classified in five year age groups from 15-54 for all India along with the four states mentioned above. It can be seen that in terms of percent single that there has been a steady secular increase in the values in the age groups 15-19 and 20-24 and even in 25-29 implying a rise in the age at marriage but after wards from the age group 30-34 onwards there is a secular decline. This is true with respect to states with advanced demographic transition and early demographic transition implying a rapid rise in the incidence of marriage across the country.  For example in Kerala the percent single in the age group 30-34 in 2011 was 5.0 and in Bihar it was 1.2. In the same year in the age group 50-54 the percent of women remaining single in Kerala was 3.3 compared to 0.4 in Bihar (approximated to the second decimal), Charts 1A and 1B give pictorial representation of the trend lines in the percentage single in India and the four states for the age groups 25-29 and 30-34 respectively. We can see from Chart 1 A low the percentage single in all the states seem to converge over time to Kerala value of  111.9 and in Chart 1 B there is clear rising  trend in all the states to Kerala levels but the gaps are still quite wide. While Kerala had 5.0% single in 2011, all other states had between 1 and 4% but rising to the Kerala levels. Women in Kerala marry quite late in their mid-twenties but by age 30 to 35 or around 33, most of them do get married. Marriage is as much universal in Kerala as in the other states in spite of its higher literacy rates, much better health conditions and high status of women. It is worth pointing out that the percentage of women reported single in 2011 SRS data are sharply higher in all age groups compared to the 2001 census data and this requires further investigations. However the findings on the trends on the proportions single until ages 25-29 and sharp declines thereafter remain unaffected.
b) SMAM values 
The Singulate Mean age at Marriage for women (SMAM) computed on the basis of data on percentage singles using the standard procedures developed by Hajnal (1953) are given in Table 2. For India, as a whole, it increased from 16.8 in 1961 to 18.7 in 1981 and to 21.0 in 2011. For Bihar the increase was from 15.9 to 17.1 to 19.7; for Kerala the rise was from 20.1 in 1961 to 21.8 in 1981 and to 21.7 in 2011; for Tamil Nadu the figures were 18.5 to 20.3 to 21.9 and in UP it was from 16.0 to 17.3 to 21.1. Thus the increase in the SMAM values over the 50 year period 1961-2011 was just 2.6 years in Kerala, 4.6 years in Tamil Nadu, 5.1 years in Bihar and 6.2 years in Uttar Pradesh.  The data show a rapid convergence of all the states in their SMAM values to the Kerala level. Thus the less developed states are catching up with the advanced states in the SMAM values. While the marriage age of the less developed states is rising rapidly there is a slowdown in the rate of increase in the more developed states.
 c) Comparison with situation in the four developed countries
     The data on percentage of women remaining single in different age group for France, Japan, UK and USA for the period around 1970 to 2010 are presented in Tables 3. The data for these four developed countries present a totally different picture from India. In the 30-34 age- group while the percent single in India in 2011 was 4.0, it was 48.7 in France in 2009; was 34.5 in Japan; 47.8 in UK and 26.3 in USA. It is obvious that a high proportion of women reporting as “single” in these four countries in the age group 30-34 may be having a “live-in” arrangements and they are living in conjugal relationships with their spouses but not legally married. Even in the age group 50-54 the percentage reporting single in these four countries were 14.4, 8.7, 10.2 and 10.0 much higher than what is reported for Kerala state at 3.3 and India at 1.2. Thus the institution of marriage has been on the decline in these developed countries for over four decades.
   The scatter plots of the SMAM values of India compared with other four developed countries is given in Chart 4. From this scatter plots it can be seen that the SMAM values are also steadily increasing in these four developed countries implying a steady rise in ‘live-in” arrangements in these countries. In Japan in the context of a very small proportion of births occurring to single mothers as compared to other three developed countries, the prevalence of ‘live-in’ arrangements  may not be that wide spread as in the other three western countries.
d. Incidence of divorces
Chart 5 presents the percentage of women in different age groups reported “divorced” around 2010 in the four developed countries. For India, the extent of divorces in recent years is not available. There is likelihood of more of “separations” reported in India than formal divorces. Thus there is a possibility of divorce rate reported being an underestimate in India but same is nearly true in developed countries as well in recent times. Although the most of the formal marriages are registered in developed countries, the separation from “live-in” arrangements may not be reported as divorce irrespective of the duration of “live-in” life by the couple. Since the duration of such “live-in” life is also increasing even in developed countries the reported rates of divorce may actually be higher than what is reported for these countries. Thus there is a problem of quality of data on percent of women reported as “divorced” both in India and the developed countries and both may be grossly underestimated. But, the order of differences may indicate a picture not far from reality.
    From Table 3 and Chart 5 it can be seen that even while the marriage rate is declining, the percentage of women reporting as divorced within this declining group is increasing over the years. In France, it was 4.9 in 1970 that increased to 16.3 by 2010; in Japan it increased from 3.8 to 9.2; in UK it rose from 2.0 to 19.0 and in USA from 5.5 to 17.4.  The rise in divorce rates is the lowest in Japan compared to France, UK and USA. Chart 5 gives a bar diagram of the percentage of women reporting divorced in these four countries and India around 2010 and 1991.
e. Single status among men
When we study the universality of marriage and its stability in India it is important to corroborate the findings based data on females with similar data on men. Table 5 presents data on the percentage of men single in the year 2011  for India as a whole and the four states. We find that in India the percentage single among men was 95 in the age group 15-19, declined sharply to 11 in the age group 30-34 and to 2 in the age group 50-54. In Kerala the percents single in these there age groups were 99, 22 and 1. The trend of decline in the percentage single in these four states clearly shows convergence to almost zero percent of remaining single by age 55.
 
V.  Findings from micro level analysis.
  The analysis contained in the above sections is based on aggregate level data at the state and national levels within India and across selected developed countries for comparative purposes. They provide only broad patterns on the distributions of women by marital status for comparison across selected states in India and countries over time. In the micro level analysis we use the data collected in the third round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), coordinated by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, conducted in 2005-06.  In this survey all women in reproductive ages 15-49 were interviewed unlike in NFHS-1 and NFHS-2 where only ever married women were considered for the survey. NFHS-3 collected information from a nationally representative sample of 109,041 households, 124,385 women age 15-49, and 74,369 men age 15-54. The NFHS-3 sample covers 99 percent of India’s population living in all 29 states.
  We analyzed the data on the marital status of women reported in the survey grouping them as “never married/single”, “ever married” that includes “currently married” and, “previously married” (includes widowed, divorced and separated women). We used a simple binomial logit regression using five predictors viz; age, rural/urban status, education level of the woman, wealth index of the house hold and the variables of religion and caste combined as ‘religio-caste’ variable. While age is used as a continuous variable the other four are used as discrete or categorical variables. For ‘religio-caste’ we used a single ascribed variable that combines religion and caste among ‘Hindus’. We used dummies for the four states. The categorization of “religio-caste’’ variable that we used was; 1: Christians; 2: Muslims; 3: Hindu Scheduled caste; 4: Hindu Scheduled tribe; 5: Hindu Other backward caste; 6: Hindu others; and 7: Other religions. The reason for our combining religion and caste into a single variable was that even among Christians and Muslims, a significant proportion among them were scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward castes.  Caste which is predominantly  an ascribed nomenclature assigned at the time of birth for a child born in the Hindu religion is now becoming increasingly prevalent in other religious categories in India. In our present analysis, we found that the presence of caste categorization among religions other than Hindus confounds the effects of caste and religion on the marital status and this required the formation of a new variable “religio-caste” as given above.
From Table 6, it can be seen that all the variables selected as predictors have a highly significant odds ratios on the probability of getting married. Age, used as continuous variable has an odds ratio of 1.5 and indicates that controlling for other factors it increases the odds of marrying by 50%. Even controlling for age and other achieved variables of place of residence, education and wealth index, the effects of the “religio-caste” variable has the maximum impact among the Hindus in all caste categories with odds ratios over 2, compared to Christians. The highest odds ratio of 2.94 is found among the Hindu OBCs. The odds ratios in all categories of the three  achieved variables of rural/urban residence, wealth index and education of women  are below 1 indicating that the maximum probability of marriage is among the rural, illiterate and poorest women and any changes in these variables contributes to upward mobility and reduces the odds ratios. The dampening effect on the probability of getting married or moving from single status to the ever married status of the three ascribed variables is revealed from this analysis. Most important finding is the high odds ratios of the “religio-caste” variable. Use of state dummies in the logit reveals that the sates of Tamil Nadu (0.55) and Kerala (0.85) have odds ratios below 1 while Bihar  (1.57)and Uttar Pradesh (1.04) have above 1, with all the other states combined and used as base for comparison.
  The main inference we can draw from this analysis is that the  ascribed variables of religion and caste are more important factors in the probabilities of marriage for a single women even after controlling for the achieved variables of rural/urban residence; education for women, and index of wealth of the family. As we will be arguing below in the discussion section, the institution of marriage is strongly embedded over centuries within the religious and caste fold. Inter caste marriages and inter religious marriages are socially condemned and frowned upon. Hence we wanted to find out whether the two ascribed factors dominate over achievement factors in determining marriage and age at marriage.
VII. Summary and Discussions
In Section- I above, we listed four major factors that have contributed to the breakdown of the institution of marriage in the west. We wish to argue that none of these factors are relevant for the population of India currently. The first of the four factors is the ‘rise of individualism’ and its negative impact on marriage in the west.  In India this is not likely to happen in the near future since any individual in the Indian culture is a part of a larger net work of family, gothra, caste and religion. From its birth a girl child is brought up as a daughter to be married off at a later age, fully dependent on the parents till marriage, later a dependent on her husband, and if unfortunately to be widowed after marriage to be dependent on son and after death to be lit in the funeral pyre by a son to get merit in the other world. There appears to have been no major changes in such norm in India even with considerable demographic and socio-economic changes. No religious groups are an exception to this fact. One example of this is the dowry system which is practiced across all religious groups in India. Similarly a boy is told from very young age of his responsibilities to his family, parents, sisters and various evils or (“papas”) that will descend on him if he ignores his parents or his family in their old age. Thus there is no question of anyone born in India declaring that he is an “individual” bereft of all his familial connections and concentrating on his own personal development. At least for many decades to come, this is not likely to happen.
 On the second factor of cost-benefit analysis of girls marrying within and outside the same caste many studies have brought out the economic and emotional benefits of a girl marrying within the same caste. In an interesting study of marriages based on the advertisements in the “matrimonial columns” of Anand Bazar Patrika (a daily news paper in Calcutta),   Banerjee et. al (2013) made an interesting and detailed analysis of the data collected by follow up visits to a large number of marriages that took place over many decades on the basis of these matrimonial ads. Their analysis included a detailed econometric analysis of the data collected from the women interviewed in this study and concluded that marrying within the same caste is socially and economically advantageous both to the bride and the bride groom. To quote from their major findings “One of our key empirical findings is that there is a very strong preference for within-caste marriage. However, because both sides of the market share this preference and because the groups are fairly homogeneous in terms of the distributions of other attributes, in equilibrium, the cost of wanting to marry within-caste is low. This allows caste to remain a persistent feature of the Indian marriage market”.
     The extent of prevalence of same caste and inter-caste marriages in India has been studied by Das et. al (2010) using data collected from the  National Family Health Survey -3 conducted during  2005- 06 in India, in which information on the caste category of each member of the household was obtained by the interviewer through a structured questionnaire. The caste categories used in this analysis is only four viz. SC, ST, OBC and others. Thus, only a when the husband and wife belonged to a different category among these four groups it was considered an inter caste marriage. Such a broad caste categorization can be expected to grossly underestimate the magnitude of inter caste marriages which take place within each broad category. Many inter-caste marriages do take place within the broad caste category as OBC, SC and ST. However the order of magnitude of inters caste marriages found in this study is quite revealing. The study found that as a whole the percent of married women in the age range 15-49 reporting marriage within the same caste category was 89; in Bihar 89; in Kerala 80; in Tamil Nadu 97 and in Uttar Pradesh 88 (Das et al, 2010). It is really surprising that In Tamil Nadu which had a strong Dravidian movement for over six decades and the Dravidian parties in power for over four decades and which officially promoted and rewarded inter caste marriages, the percent of marriages reported within the same caste is as high as 97. Though the data quality on caste reported in NFHS-3 may be called to question the order of magnitude of percent of inter caste marriages reported across all the states, more developed or less developed, can be considered to be quite low.
The third factor that contributed to the decline of marriages on the west is the over specialization of skills and almost each person becomes unique in his /her skills. In India with large percentage of workers still employed in agriculture this is not likely to happen in the near future. Even in the secondary and tertiary sectors such a level of specialization of skills as observed in the west are not found and in IT sector most of the jobs are really those outsourced from the developed countries because of the differences in the cost of labor.
     The fourth factor is “gender equality and parity” and India is far from this goal.  Based on various measures on gender disparity such as sex selective female feticides, education, employment , freedom to marry one whom she loves, domestic violence ,employment, economic freedom and many others Indian women rank very low to other women not only in developed countries but also in Asia. The poor status of women is reflected in highly skewed sex ratio (0-6) among children, high maternal mortality rates, high level of malnutrition, morbidity rates etc.
 
According to the Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2011, India was ranked 113 on the Gender Gap Index (GGI) among 135 countries polled.  During the past three years, India has improved its rankings on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index (GGI) to 105/136 in 2013 but is still quite low in the comity of nations. This index measured the gap in education, longevity and employment political representation between men and women. Various gender empowerment measures have scaled India almost close to 130-140 rank out of 175 countries and in spite of various efforts made by the governments, non-governmental organizations and a few political parties the gender inequalities on the scale achieved in the west cannot be realized in the near future. Indian women tend to be valued by society in relation to their role in the family, namely as a wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. Women who fall outside of these roles, such as widows and single women,  face discrimination and in many cases, loss of property. Since a woman is considered incomplete without being married, a strong social stigma exists for unmarried adult women, widows, and divorcees. A detailed discussion on gender inequalities and demographic behavior in India can be had in Desai (1994)  in which she argues marrying and having a son as early as possible is the only choice available for most of the women in India for social acceptability  and upward mobility in India. Thus marriage seems to be the only saving grace for restoring the status of women in Indian society.
 
 The low percentage of inter caste marriages is equally observed among the more educated as among the poor educated , among the better economic groups as in the poorer groups and among those exposed to the mass media as among those not exposed. Marriages within the same religion were 85% among Hindus, 89% among Muslims, and 90 % among others. It was almost constant among those with different standard of living index (SLI) and among those exposed to mass media or not at 89%. Thus there appears to be structural caste rigidity in relation to marriages in India that cuts across education and economic groups. It can be inferred that as long as caste system is not basically disturbed the institution of marriage as it is prevailing now may not undergo any radical changes.
Thus based on the proportions of women at different age groups remaining single and trends over the past fifty years in India as whole and two more advanced and two less advanced states in terms of socio-economic development, it is found that while development in India has contributed to a significant rise in age at marriage, it has not altered the ultimate proportions getting married by ages 30-34. Most of the women, 97%, get married by the age of 45-49 even in the most developed state of Kerala and more than 98% in the other three states. The percent reporting divorced or separated is very low at all ages, less than 1%. These figures are in complete contrast with what is observed in the developed countries of the west and Japan. We have compared the levels and trends in single, married and divorced states of women in different ages in three developed countries of the West, France, UK and USA and Japan with India and the states and draw the conclusion that the institution of marriage is strong in India and is not showing nor likely to show as feared by some professionals in a survey to break down in the future. Micro level analysis using NFHS-3 data show the strongest linkage between age shifts in marital status from single state to married state over riding all other factors. The ascribed factors of religion and caste have more effects on the odds ratios than education or wealth status of the household. 
  A strong contributing factor behind the stability in the institution of marriage is that marriages are still taking place within the same caste and there is a strong caste support behind every marriage. This is rather unfortunate because the social evils and economic impediments of the rigid caste structure are well known and many leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Narayana Guru and Periar in the south have fought relentlessly against it for over many decades.  The efforts of many social and political movements like the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu that were in power and  encouraging  inter caste marriages over the past  seven decades, does not appear to have had any impact since even in Tamil Nadu where the reported percent of inter-caste marriages is only about 3% during 2005-06  as found from NFHS-3. Similarly the analysis of data on requirements for a spouse as published in the advertisements in the matrimonial columns of newspapers and web sites specify the requirement of the same caste as an essential condition for marriage by most of the applicants, irrespective of their socio-economic background. The caste based vote bank politics supported by many national and regional political parties have strengthened the caste system. Perhaps, one of the contributions of the caste system seems to be the stability it has brought to the institution of marriage in India. The costs and  benefits of the caste system requires a Beckerian analysis; whether disruptions at the family level maintained by increased live-in arrangements , high divorce rates , children reared by single parents avoided by the caste based marriage system will be the trade off for achieving a more egalitarian and faster going nation. However women in India seem to be safely trapped, as of present and for the near future, in the golden cage of marriage set up by religion, caste and economic forces. Though the stability of the institution of marriage in India is taken for granted by the Indian scholars and public at large, the above study highlights the routes of such stability in factors of religion, caste and high social and economic cost of marital breakdown.
 
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Lesthaeghe, Ron J., and Lisa Neidert (2006), “The Second Demographic Transition in the United States: Exception or Textbook Example?”  Population and Development Review, Vol. 32, No. 4, P: 669-698.
 
Maslow, A. (1954), Motivation and Personality, New York, Harper and Row.
 
Srinivasan, K. (2014), “India’s Population Issues and Policies: Professionals’ Perceptions”, (Findings from a survey of professionals in the field), Report on a web based survey submitted to the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR).
 
United Nations (2012), “World Marriage Prospects – 2012”, New York: United Nations. (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2012/MainFrame.html).
 
Weiss, R.S. (1975), Marital Separation, New York: Basic Books.
 
Weiss, R.S., (1979) Going it Alone, New York: Basic Books.
 
 
Table 1:  Percentage of females remaining single in different age group, India, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
 and Uttar Pradesh   1961 – 2011.
Year
Age Group
15-19
20-24
25-29
30-34
35-39
40-44
45-49
50 - 54
India
1961
29.2
6.0
1.9
1.0
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.5
1971
43.7
9.5
2.3
1.0
0.8
0.6
0.5
0.5
1981
55.9
14.0
3.3
1.2
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.4
1991
64.3
17.0
4.2
1.8
0.9
1.0
0.7
0.8
2001
75.2
23.0
5.7
2.2
1.3
1.2
0.9
0.9
2011
87.8
37.3
12.2
4.0
1.4
1.7
0.0
0.0
Bihar
1961
15.6
3.0
1.3
0.9
0.7
0.6
0.6
0.6
1971
23.1
3.6
1.0
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.3
0.3
1981
35.3
5.2
1.3
0.5
0.3
0.3
0.2
0.2
1991
44.2
7.1
1.6
0.9
0.4
0.7
0.5
0.8
2001
60.4
9.5
1.5
0.7
0.6
0.3
0.2
0.3
2011
86.0
27.8
5.1
1.5
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
Kerala
1961
69.6
22.7
8.0
4.5
3.2
2.9
2.2
1.8
1971
81.0
32.7
9.3
5.3
3.7
3.5
3.1
2.9
1981
85.4
40.2
12.5
5.8
3.5
3.4
2.9
3.1
1991
88.5
43.4
13.9
6.2
3.9
3.7
3.0
3.2
2001
86.7
41.6
13.0
5.8
3.9
3.5
3.2
3.4
2011
93.1
48.1
14.6
6.3
3.9
2.6
2.8
3.5
Tamil Nadu
1971
72.7
17.0
2.7
1.2
0.7
0.7
0.6
0.5
1981
76.8
22.9
4.8
1.7
0.8
0.7
0.5
0.4
1991
81.9
28.5
6.8
2.5
1.1
1.1
0.7
0.7
2001
84.3
34.8
8.4
3.0
1.6
1.5
1.1
1.1
2011
94.6
47.9
15.2
4.7
1.3
1.4
1.6
0.0
Uttar Pradesh
1961
17.0
2.5
1.0
0.6
0.4
0.4
0.3
0.4
1971
26.6
3.8
1.1
0.6
0.7
0.4
0.3
0.3
1981
39.0
5.8
1.0
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.1
0.2
1991
53.0
8.1
1.5
0.7
0.3
0.7
0.6
0.6
2001
72.6
16.1
3.0
1.0
0.6
0.6
0.4
0.5
2011
89.9
42.6
10.8
1.6
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
Source: Computed from Census Data for various years

 
Table 2 Singulate Mean Age at Marriage (SMAM) (15-49 age group) in India and Selected States
 Selected States
1961
1971
1981
1991
2001
2011
Bihar
15.93
16.37
17.08
17.56
18.59
21.02
Kerala
20.05
21.07
21.84
22.27
21.96
22.71
Tamil Nadu
18.45
19.61
20.27
20.91
21.41
23.12
Uttar Pradesh
15.99
16.57
17.28
18.06
19.57
22.25
India
16.84
17.76
18.66
19.26
20.20
22.22
Source: Same as in Table 1
  
             


Table 3 – Percentage remaining single among females in each age group in France, Japan, UK and US 1970-2010
 
Age
1970s
1980s
1990s
2000
2009-10
France 1970
Japan 1970
UK      1971
US        1970
France 1985
Japan 1985
UK      1981
US       1980
France 1999
Japan 1995
UK      1991
US         1990
France 2005
Japan 2005
UK      2001
US        2000
France 2009
Japan 2010
UK      2009
US      2009
15-19
93.7
97.9
91.3
88.1
97.9
99.1
95.5
90.8
99.4
99.3
98.2
94.3
99.1
99.2
95.2
94.1
99.5
99.4
99.6
97.2
20-24
46.1
71.7
40.3
36.3
65.0
81.6
53.7
51.3
93.1
86.8
75.4
64.6
90.8
88.7
69.1
69.1
92.9
89.6
93.3
77.4
25-29
16.5
18.1
13.9
12.2
27.2
30.6
19.2
22.0
66.2
48.2
38.4
32.0
66.8
59.1
38.1
38.1
70.8
60.3
71.9
46.3
30-34
10.5
7.2
7.8
7.4
14.4
10.4
8.8
10.8
40.0
19.7
18.2
18.2
44.5
32.0
21.9
21.9
48.7
34.5
47.8
26.3
35-39
8.9
5.8
7.2
5.9
9.4
6.6
6.2
8.1
26.2
10.1
10.2
10.0
32.4
18.8
14.3
13.4
36.5
23.1
31.8
16.4
40 – 44
8.4
5.3
7.7
5.4
7.5
4.9
5.6
3.9
16.7
6.8
6.4
 
23.4
12.2
9.8
 
27.9
17.4
22.0
13.1
45 – 49
8.3
4.0
8.3
5.4
6.7
4.3
6.0
4.8
11.6
5.6
5.2
5.6
16.2
8.3
7.1
8.0
20.7
12.6
15.1
11.5
50 – 54
8.1
2.7
9.0
5.7
7.0
4.4
6.8
4.8
8.5
4.6
5.0
 
11.5
6.2
5.2
 
14.4
8.7
10.2
10.0
Source: United Nations (2012) World Marriage Prospects -2014


Table 4: Singulate Mean Age at Marriage ( SMAM) in India and Developed Countries

 
1961
1970 Circa
1980 Circa
1990 Circa
2000 Circa
Latest
India
16.84
17.76
18.66
19.26
20.20
21.75
USA
 
20.5
23.3
25.4
26
26.9
UK
 
21.3
23
26.4
26.3
31.8
France
 
22.3
24.7
30.7
31
31.6
Japan
 
24.7
25.8
27.7
29.4
29.7

Source: Same as in Table 3
Table 5: Percentage of Single men in India, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, 2001

Age
India
Bihar
Kerala
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
15-19
97.20
95.90
100.00
100.00
97.64
20-24
74.47
65.48
94.94
90.36
73.00
25-29
37.78
27.85
66.67
54.26
34.44
30-34
13.51
6.67
27.03
19.32
11.11
35-39
4.35
1.69
9.59
6.41
4.92
40-44
3.39
0.00
4.17
2.86
4.26
45-49
1.85
0.00
2.94
1.56
2.27
50-54
2.50
0.00
1.69
1.89
3.23
55-59
0.00
0.00
1.82
0.00
3.57

Source: Same as in Table 1


Table 6: Logistic Regression Result on the Odds of being Married, 2005-06)

(0=unmarried; 1=ever married)

Background Characteristics
India
 
Coeff
Odds Ratio
 
Type of place of residence
Rural
 
 
 
Urban
-.401
.670***
 
Age of Women
Current Age
.407
1.503***
 
Religion and Caste
Christians
 
 
 
Muslims
.601
1.823***
 
Other Religions
.295
1.343***
 
Hindu – SC
.983
2.674***
 
Hindu – ST
.700
2.014***
 
Hindu – OBC
1.078
2.937***
 
Hindu – Others
.733
2.082***
 
Educational level of women
Illiterates
 
 
 
Primary
-.587
.556***
 
Secondary
-1.409
.244***
 
Higher
-2.819
.060***
 
Wealth index
Poorest
 
 
 
Poorer
-.014
.986***
 
Middle
-.177
.837***
 
Richer
-.234
.791***
 
Richest
-.398
.672***
 
State
All Other States
 
 
 
Bihar
.454
1.574***
 
Kerala
-.168
.846***
 
Tamilnadu
-.594
.552***
 
Uttar Pradesh
.041
1.042***
 
Constant
 
-7.263
.001
 
 
Source: Estimated from National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06) micro data,
 IIPS and Macro International (2007)
 
 
 
 



[1]  Emeritus Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai and National Fellow, Indian Council for Social Science Research ( ICSSR)
[2]  Professor and Head, Population Research Center, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) , Bangalore.
The authors are thankful to Dr Vaithilingam, Documentation specialist at IIPS, Mumbai, N Kavitha and Annie George, ISEC, Bangalore and Mr. Senthil Selvan, Research Assistant to the project to the senior author.



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