Marriages Made in Silico: Essays on Social Norms, Technology Adoption, and Institutions in Online Matrimonial Matching Platforms
Karmegam, Sabari Rajan
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Online matrimonial platforms have emerged as a way to take the highly institutionalized process of arranged marriages online while preserving the offline social, cultural, and gender norms. While there is a rich body of empirical work on online dating, the corresponding literature on online matrimonial platforms is sparse. My dissertation seeks to fill this gap. In my first essay, I look at mobile adoption's role in online matrimonial platforms' engagement and matching outcomes. The analysis shows that unlike the dating market where the market's transaction costs are eased by the ubiquity and personal nature of the mobile device for all users, here subgroups associated with strong endogamous preferences benefit with mobile adoption. My work extends the mobile ecosystem study to the societal context where institutional norms take precedence and influence mobile adoption outcomes. In my second essay, I study how the search frictions, social norms, and disempowerment that results from the gender skew in online matching platforms can be mitigated by using appropriate market design. I use a quasi-experimental methodology by relying on two interventions designed by the platform to reduce women's cognitive load. The interventions improved the overall well-being of women on platforms. My work here aims to increase awareness on the role platforms needs to play to improve women's well-being while ensuring that online platforms do not unravel. In my third essay, I look at whether the sanctity of institutional norms and traditional markers of status - involvement of multiple stakeholders through parental involvement and social norms related to endogamy and gender roles are retained in online matrimonial platforms. I find that "platformization" leads to institutional unbundling, with outcomes guided by more liberal ethos. This essay extends the platform literature on institutional contexts and shows that transition to online settings may not be seamless. My dissertation thus contributes to the literature on Information Systems by highlighting the need to consider the societal, cultural, and gender norms to further our understanding of the market design and technology adoption in highly institutionalized contexts.