The impact of early marriage on the life satisfaction, education and subjective health of young women in India: A longitudinal analysis

Shireen Kanji, Fiona Carmichael, Christian K. Darko, Richmond Egyei, Nicholas Vasilakos

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Despite progress in reducing rates of early marriage, it is still a widespread practice in India accounting for 30 per cent of the world’s early marriages. Understanding its impacts is thus of high importance to global gender equality goals. This article examines the impact of early marriage on multi-dimensional aspects of well-being: life satisfaction, subjectively assessed health and educational attainment. Difference-in-differences analysis with propensity score matching examines causal effects using Young Lives Study data. The analysis shows women who married early experience a trajectory of lower life satisfaction which is in evidence before marriage, even at age 12, persisting until the latest survey at age 22. There is no evidence of a causal negative effect of early marriage on life satisfaction; the relationship is more complicated, linked to trajectories of deprivation which commence from a very young age. In contrast, early marriage negatively affects women’s self-reported health and educational attainment by age 22.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-723
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Development Studies
Issue number5
Early online date18 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • child/early marriage
  • education
  • gender inequality
  • India
  • life satisfaction
  • subjective health
  • women’s well-being

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