The practice of dowry in India has been theoretically linked to a number of factors including the nature of residence and inheritance system, women's role in production, kinship organizations, relative availability of potential spouses, and social stratification in society. This article empirically examines dowries in India and provides an institutional and economic rationale for the existence and continued prevalence of the system. Using data on marriage transactions and on the personal and family traits of marital partners the article demonstrates that payments of dowry serve to equalize the measurable differences in individual characteristics of the bride's and groom's and their respective households. Thus, dowry qualifies as the "price" paid for a "good match" in the marriage market. Results also reveal that the form of inheritance system, the residence of the bride after marriage, and the gender ratio of marriageable women to men have no effect on the incidence and size of dowry.