GenderStats 6: Underage Marriage – 2

30 December 2021 | Gender

Ankur Bhardwaj

Ankur Bhardwaj

Editor, Centre for Economic Data and Analysis

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In our previous post on underage marriages, we had looked at the decline in 20-24-year-old women getting married before turning 18 over a period, as covered in National Family Health Survey – 3 (NFHS-3), NFHS-4, and NFHS-5. Read part 1 here.

Indian states vary greatly in terms of their income levels (measured by Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) Per Capita). In this post, we explore if there is any correlation between underage marriages and per capita GSDP. There could be several reasons to expect a negative correlation. To the extent underage marriages are driven by poverty, it might be the case that richer states display lower rates of underage marriages. Alternatively, it might be the case that richer states have higher levels of education and therefore have lower rates of underage marriages. A full exploration requires a deeper dive. In this post, we take a quick look at the correlation between the two variables and plot the inter-state variation. 

In this Picture This entry, we plot the state-wise percentage of 20-24-year-old women married before turning 18 (in 2015-16 based on data from NFHS-4 and 2019-21 based on data from NFHS-5) on the X-axis against the respective state-wise Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) Per Capita in Intl $ in 2019 (International $, which according to the World Bank, “would buy in the cited country a comparable amount of goods and services a U.S. dollar would buy in the United States.”) on the Y-axis. The state-wise GSDP Per Capita has been calculated using the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) report on Indian State Domestic Product 2019.

The blue dots represent a state’s percentage of underage marriage in NFHS-4 and its GSDP Per Capita (Intl $) in 2019. Red dots represent the same for NFHS-5. In the top right corner of the graph, you can select one or both rounds of NFHS by clicking on it. 

The main takeaway from this graph is that underage marriages declined between 2015-16 and 2019-21 for 26 out of 32 states or UTs, regardless of their income levels. The four states where the proportion of underage marriages increased are Assam, Punjab, Tripura, and Manipur. The correlation between income levels and underage marriages is negative (approximately -0.54 in both years), which means that richer states (higher GSDP) have a lower proportion of underage marriages.

In the top left corner of the graph, we can see that Goa has amongst the lowest percentage of underage marriages of women: 5.8 percent in NFHS-5 (down from 9.8 percent in NFHS-4) and the highest GSDP Per Capita in the country at Intl $ 21,923. While Goa has the highest GSDP Per Capita in the country, it ranks number three among states with a low percentage of 20-24-year-old women getting married before turning 18, as per NFHS-5.

In 2019-21, Himachal Pradesh has the lowest percent of underage marriages in the country at 5.4 percent (down from 8.6 percent in NFHS-4) with a GSDP Per Capita of Intl $ 9,619. Himachal Pradesh is followed by Nagaland at 5.6 percent (NFHS-5) and Intl $ 5,797.

For states with less than 10 percent underage marriages in NFHS-5, the lowest GSDP Per Capita is Intl $ 5,797 (Nagaland) while for states with more than 20 percent underage marriages, the lowest GSDP Per Capita is seen at Intl $ 2,076 (Bihar) while the highest GSDP Per Capita is Intl $ 10,857 (Telangana). 

At the other end of the spectrum, in 2019-21, Telangana reported the highest percentage of underage marriages (23.5 percent) with a high GSDP Per Capita of Intl $ 10,857. However, we should exercise caution in interpreting this. Telangana’s higher GSDP Per Capita may reflect Hyderabad’s contribution to the state’s GSDP rather than be a marker of overall prosperity. According to a government reply to a question asked in the Parliament, Telangana’s farmers average monthly income is the fifth lowest among large states. As recently as 2019, Telangana had the fourth highest number of farmer suicides in the country, as per NCRB data although as per the Union government, the state had seen the sharpest dip in farmer suicides in the country between 2017 and 2019.

“GenderStats by CEDA” is a new series by the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis on the Picture This page. With the help of graphs, we will highlight the socio-economic and health status of Indian women and help understand their position vis-à-vis Indian men and other women in the rest of the world. If you have a suggestion for us or if there is an indicator that you would like us to focus on, please write to us at


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