Dowry payments in Indian marriages became more frequent over the course of the twentieth century but the median dowry payment and the premium on educated grooms has been declining since 1975, according to research by economists Gaurav Chiplunkar of Yale University and Jeffrey Weaver of the University of California, San Diego. Using data on 76,000 marriages between 1930 and 2000, the duo show that the share of marriages with any dowry payments rose from 35-40% in 1930 to almost 90% by 1975 while the median dowry doubled. The median dowry decreased after 1975 in real terms as well as a fraction of household income. The decline in top dowry payments (payments belonging to the top percentiles) has contributed to the post-1975 decline. Rising male education levels first led to a rise in dowry payments in the pre-1975 period as better-educated grooms with better earnings prospects commanded a premium. However, as the supply of more educated grooms increased over time, the premium that the brides’ families were willing to pay for ‘better-quality’ suitors declined, leading to a decline in top dowry payments, the authors argue.

Also read: Marriage Markets and the Rise of Dowry in India

A new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper on the connection between economic austerity and the rise of the Nazi party holds lessons for those perplexed by the rise of the far right in present-day Europe. Gregori Galofré-Vilà, a postdoctoral researcher at the Università Bocconi, and co-authors, studied polling data from 1,024 districts in Germany from 1930-33 to find that austerity, as measured by a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, resulted in a shift of votes to the Nazi party. Every one standard deviation rise in fiscal consolidation saw votes to the Nazi party rise between 2 and 5 percentage points. The standard deviation is a measure of variation.

Also read: Austerity and the rise of the Nazi party

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives can motivate employees to work harder only if they believe that the initiatives are not designed to increase the firm’s profit, according to a new NBER working paper by Lea Cassar, assistant professor at the University of Cologne, and Stephan Meier, professor of business at Columbia University. They arrived at this conclusion after conducting a study of an Italian firm that hired 3,000 workers. Social initiatives such as a charitable donation serve as a positive signal for workers who value such engagement. However, donations conditional upon employees meeting certain targets backfired.

Also read: Intentions for Doing Good Matter for Doing Well: The (Negative) Signalling Value of Prosocial Incentives

How do investors judge an entrepreneur’s past record of failure? According to a new research paper by Diego Zunino, PhD fellow at Copenhagen Business School, and co-authors, investors are likely to ignore failures which result from bad luck rather than incompetence. The researchers designed an experiment on an equity crowd-funding platform in the UK where they studied how investors’ preference changed depending on their knowledge of an entrepreneur’s record of success. The authors observed that if investors received positive information on skill levels of entrepreneurs, then they discounted past failure.

Also read: Badge of Honor or Scarlet Letter? Unpacking Investors’ Judgment of Entrepreneurs’ Past Failure

An analysis of contracts awarded under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) between 2001 and 2013 indicates widespread corruption at state and local levels, according to research by Jonathan Lehne of the Paris School of Economics, and co-authors. They studied 4,058 elections in 24 Indian states and their impact on PMGSY, a government scheme which builds roads in previously unconnected villages. They found that when a politician wins an election, the share of road contracts awarded to contractors bearing the same surname rose. The rise was even greater when the top-ranked bureaucrat in the district had the same surname. In the Indian context, the surname often serves as a proxy for caste. The findings shed light on how politicians have managed to influence a programme where they had no formal role.

Also read: Elections and corruption: Politics and public procurement in India

Economics Digest runs weekly, and features interesting reads from the world of economics.

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