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Astrology and Matrimony: The Real Effects of Religious Beliefs about Marriage in Vietnam


This paper investigates the real consequences of religious beliefs separately from the usual company of religious norms and organizations. We focus on Vietnamese's predictive beliefs on a couple's auspiciousness based on their birth years according to Tu Vi, a pervasive system of religious beliefs derived from Taoist astrology. First, we estimate a structural model of assortative marriage matching market, and show that such beliefs in marriage fortune matter to people's marriage matching, playing a role equivalent to 6-8% of that of the entire age and education profile. Second, building on the structural estimation, we derive a control function for selection into marriage to estimate the effect of auspiciousness on household outcomes free of the selection bias. Auspiciousness increases household expenditure and income by 2-3%, likely through a mechanism such that, when in hardship such as health shocks, an auspicious couple enjoys 25% more transfer from their extended family. Such effect helps reduce children's dropouts, without affecting family composition. Survey data on beliefs further show auspicious couples' stronger first-, and especially second-order beliefs (about their relatives' beliefs) that auspicious couples are more harmonious and luckier, rather than other mechanisms based on discrimination or conformation to club norms.


Working Paper


Edoardo Ciscato, Quoc-Anh Do, Kieu-Trang Nguyen

Date Published



Ciscato, Edoardo, Quoc-Anh Do, and Kieu-Trang Nguyen. 2023. Astrology and Matrimony: The Real Effects of Religious Beliefs about Marriage in Vietnam.


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