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Harming to signal: child marriage vs. public donations in Malawi


Haenni, Simon; Lichand, Guilherme (2020). Harming to signal: child marriage vs. public donations in Malawi. Working paper series / Department of Economics 348, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Do people conform to social norms at least partly to signal their social preferences? Using a vignette experiment, we find that parents who do not marry off their under-age daughters in Malawian villages where child marriage is prevalent are perceived as less altruistic, reciprocal, and trustworthy. If parents indeed “harm to signal” in this setting, could alternative signals encourage them to abandon the practice, by offering them other means of showcasing pro-sociality? Randomly assigning public donation drives across 412 villages, we find that those who do not support child marriage are no longer perceived as less pro-social than others in treated high-prevalence villages. Consistent with a new signaling equilibrium, child marriage and teenage pregnancies decrease by nearly 30% in those villages, one year after the intervention.

Abstract

Do people conform to social norms at least partly to signal their social preferences? Using a vignette experiment, we find that parents who do not marry off their under-age daughters in Malawian villages where child marriage is prevalent are perceived as less altruistic, reciprocal, and trustworthy. If parents indeed “harm to signal” in this setting, could alternative signals encourage them to abandon the practice, by offering them other means of showcasing pro-sociality? Randomly assigning public donation drives across 412 villages, we find that those who do not support child marriage are no longer perceived as less pro-social than others in treated high-prevalence villages. Consistent with a new signaling equilibrium, child marriage and teenage pregnancies decrease by nearly 30% in those villages, one year after the intervention.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:D91, J12, Z10
Uncontrolled Keywords:Child marriage, social norms, social preferences, signaling
Language:English
Date:June 2020
Deposited On:02 Sep 2020 09:47
Last Modified:02 Sep 2020 09:48
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:86
ISSN:1664-705X
OA Status:Green
Official URL:https://www.econ.uzh.ch/en/research/workingpapers.html?paper-id=1029

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