Mass Education, International Travel, and Ideal Ages at Marriage

Opportunities to document associations between macro-level changes in social organization and the spread of new individual attitudes are relatively rare. Moreover, of the factors generally understood to be influential, little is known about the potential mechanisms that make them so powerful. Here we use longitudinal measures from the Chitwan Valley Family Study (CVFS) to describe the processes of ideational change across 12 years among a representative sample from a rural agrarian setting in South Asia. Findings from lagged dependent variable models show that (1) two key dimensions of social organization–education and international travel–are strongly associated with change in attitudes, net of prior attitudes; (2) reorganization of education and travel are associated with attitudes toward ideal age at marriage; and (3) this association varies by gender. Using the study's prospective design, we document not only these important associations but also potential mechanisms of education and travel–exposure to the English language and friends' international travel experience–as potentially powerful social influences on individuals' attitudes, independent of their own experiences.