On burning widows, and inheritance and property rights in colonial India

‘Through a careful combination of theory and empirics, Kulkarni shows that property rights can backfire, making the rights holders worse off if elites with opposing interests control alternative institutions that they can use to counteract the effects of those rights. Evidence comes from colonial India. In some districts widows were legally permitted to inherit joint-family property; and in other districts they were not. Where widows formally enjoyed such rights, there were significantly higher rates of widows being burned to death – a relationship that was exacerbated, statistically, where there was a higher density of native elites. The natural inference, Kulkarni argues, is that this was a case of patriarchal norms undermining the effects of a notionally egalitarian regime of property rights. The conclusion, more generally, is that egalitarianism requires thoroughly egalitarian agents, assuming we can never craft completely incorruptible egalitarian institutions.’

From a forthcoming paper by Dr. Parashar Kulkarni (NYU) titled Are There Cultural Prerequisites to Effective Property Rights?: Evidence from Inheritance Rights of Widows in Colonial India (2015).

Dr. Kukarni was awarded the Brian Barry Prize 2015 for this paper (the above extract is the citation for the award). Another abstract here

HT: Robin


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s