How many cattle were exchanged for your wife? And, how many cattle do you expect to receive for your daughter's marriage?
These questions are in a section of the Men's survey about future expectations. And honestly, the preliminary data is more consistent than most of the other responses in the entire section. Bride price is very correlated with other socio-economic indicators and, according to the enumerators, suffers from minimal recollection bias.
But my stomach is still churning about including these questions. Am I just as insensitive as the next soulless economist? Despite any possible benefits of the practice (supporting in-laws, maintaining tradition, etc), I am opposed to it, as are many NGOs. But, am I encouraging the practice by asking men so outright what the price of their wife is? Worse, what about their daughters? Does talking about the practice so causally, asking a young girl's father to quantify her value in cattle, somehow write a fate for her? I may be exaggerating the effect of a simple survey, but if I've learned anything, its that research is not a one-way information flow. And the last thing I want to do is legitimize the practice.
But, at the same time, bride prices are a reality around here. Men don't hesitate to reference the practice as a source of reliable future income, frankly, a sort of future return on their investment in girls. It sounds awful to write about now, completely objectifying and quantifying the value of young women, but perhaps the first step to understanding the practice and the relationship between land and children is to just get data on it. I just hope that in the future I'll be able to create something constructive out of this research that could in the long-run, benefit women, increasing their value as human beings rather than as a commodity.