Towards an ethnographic understanding of the European Marriage Pattern: Global correlates and links with female status

Number: 
67
Author: 
Carmichael, S.G. and van Zanden, J.L.

This contribution compares the EMP, and the associated Western European family system (inheritance practices, intergenerational co-residence and exogamy), with what is known about family systems and marriage patterns in the rest of the world, with a special focus on the consequences of these family systems for human capital formation (in view of recent interpretations that interpret the EMP as a step in the 'quantity-quality' switch in demographic behaviour). This is done in the following ways: first the EMP is defined as a family system characterized by monogamy, exogamy, consensus (no arranged marriages), neo-locality, and  a relatively strong position of women in marriage. Next we compare these criteria with ethnographic data from other Eurasian societies  (mainly based on George Murdock's ethnographic world atlas), and with global classifications of family systems presented by academics (anthropologists, political scientists and demographic and family historians)   such as Emmanuel Todd. We present maps of the institutions determining marriage behavior, and show which features of the EMP can be found elsewhere. In the margin of the Eurasian landmass, marriage systems can be found with certain similarities to the EMP. In the ‘core’ of the continent, in China, Northern India, the Middle East, and Russia, institutions are diametrically opposed to those of the EMP. Finally, we briefly sketch the ‘similar’ marriage systems in Japan, Sumatra, Kerala, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and try to find out if these relatively female-friendly systems produced high levels of human capital (as the EMP is supposed to have done).