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TRiSS PhD scholar wins Young Economist Award 

TRiSS Economics PhD candidate, Laura Muñoz Blanco, has won the prestigious 2022 European Economic Association (EEA) Young Economist Award.

The award, which recognises outstanding research by authors who are no more than three years past their PhD defence, was presented at the EEA Congress in Milan (Italy) which took place from 22nd to 26th August.

Laura won the award for her research project: ‘Shifting Marriage Timing for Women: Natural disasters and Forced Displacement'.

The paper studies what happens when natural disasters forcibly displace local communities.  Large earthquakes deal a huge blow to the finances and economic circumstances of affected communities and can induce mass relocations. In communities where the marriage of a daughter carries a bride price, or where newly formed couples live with the brides’ family (matrilocal), the marrying of young daughters can be an important insurance mechanism against negative income shocks. It can also serve as a means of facilitating social integration in receiving communities when families lose their networks after relocation.

Exploiting the scattered occurrence of destructive earthquakes in Indonesia, interacted with the socio-economic characteristics of the communities that they affect and the timing of a policy reform affecting the financial circumstances of the poorest families, this paper produces new evidence on the socio-economic drivers of child and early marriage. Estimates rely on a rich combination of individual-level longitudinal data, geological data on the time, place and intensity of earthquakes, and historic ethnographic data on marital norms and traditions.

Estimates show strong evidence of anticipation of the time of marriage in communities affected by large earthquakes. This holds both among those who are displaced, usually living closer to the epicentre of the earthquake, and among those who stay behind in their original communities. The paper then exploits differences in marital traditions to establish that responses are larger in (and indeed only statistically different from zero for) communities where the marriage of girls carries a significant economic payoff to the bride’s family, either because of bride price or matrilocal traditions. Suggestive evidence also points to the importance of social motivations in anticipating marriage

This award winning study then shows novel evidence of the role of benefits in attenuating the importance economic drivers of early marriage. Exploiting the introduction of unconditional cash transfers targeted at the poorest families, estimates show that financial transfers attenuate the impact of displacement precisely among families that face the strongest incentives to anticipate their daughters’ time of marriage due to the traditions they observe.