CREB - Center for Research in Economics and Business

Causes and Effects of Consanguineous Marriage In Punjab

Jointly funded by the Lahore School of Economics and National Science Foundation USA, a team of researchers led by Dr. Theresa Thompson Chaudhry and Dr Mushfiq Mobarak (Yale University), examine the causes of consanguineous marriages and attempt to more accurately measure the effects of consanguineous marriage, both negative and positive. The researchers hope to be more accurate in their measurements of the impacts (than the previous, mainly epidemiological, studies) because consanguinity may not be an exogenously determined variable, which confounds the statistical analysis.

Nine (out of Punjab’s 35 districts) were randomly selected, comprising 70 sampling clusters. Interviews of just over 1000 households were conducted in October 2009 by trained staff in the respondent’s own language. In a household survey of the Punjab Region of Pakistan, 37.6% of the marriages were consanguineous and 62.4% were non-consanguineous. A total of 4643 pregnancies were reported by 391 first cousin and 622 non consanguineous couples interviewed in the study.

There are two major objectives of the study. These include on the negative side, the offspring of consanguineous marriages are at greater risk of disease and infant and childhood death. The survey looked at the childhood morbidity and mortality of children born out of consanguineous and non-consanguineous marriages. On the positive side, there may be greater altruism toward the children of consanguineous unions through the extended family, because there is a greater genetic tie. In addition, given that consanguineous marriage reduces uncertainty about unobserved spousal characteristics, this may provide parents with a greater incentive to “invest “ in their children, such as by educating daughters.

Finally, are there other socioeconomic benefits of consanguineous marriage such as reducing divorce, increasing empowerment of women, decreasing violence toward women etc? The research is in estimation stages.