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The Mystery of Monogamy

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  • Gould, Eric D
  • Moav, Omer
  • Simhon, Avi

Abstract

This Paper examines why developed countries are monogamous while rich men throughout history have tended to practice polygyny (multiple wives). Wealth inequality naturally produces multiple wives for rich men in a standard model of the marriage market where polygyny is not ruled out. Our model demonstrates, however, that while higher male inequality generates more polygyny, higher female inequality produces a more monogamous equilibrium. Moreover, we derive how female inequality in the marriage market is higher in equilibrium as women are valued more for their quality versus quantity of children when human capital becomes more important in determining the distribution of income. As a result, male inequality in traditional societies generates inequality in the number of wives per man, but male inequality in developed societies, where human capital is a larger source of income and inequality, manifests itself as inequality in the quality of their wives. Using data from Cote d’Ivoire, we provide supporting evidence for the main implications of the model.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4803.

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Date of creation: Dec 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4803

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Keywords: human capital; inequality; marriage; mongamy; polygyny;

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  1. Raquel Fernández & Nezih Guner & John Knowles, 2005. "Love and Money: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Household Sorting and Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 273-344, January.
  2. Moav, Omer, 2001. "Cheap Children and the Persistence of Poverty," CEPR Discussion Papers 3059, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Kremer, Michael, 1997. "How Much Does Sorting Increase Inequality?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 115-39, February.
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  5. Ted Bergstrom, . "Primogeniture, Monogamy, and Reproductive Success in a Stratified Society," Papers _025, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
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  7. Fernández, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 2000. "Sorting and Long-Run Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 2352, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  9. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 1998. "Ability Biased Technological Transition, Wage Inequality, and Economic Growth," Working Papers 98-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  10. Jacoby, Hanan G, 1995. "The Economics of Polygyny in Sub-Saharan Africa: Female Productivity and the Demand for Wives in Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 938-71, October.
  11. Nils-Petter Lagerlof, 2002. "Sex, Equality, and Growth (in that order)," GE, Growth, Math methods 0212001, EconWPA.
  12. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  13. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M & Tamura, Robert, 1990. "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S12-37, October.
  14. Theodore C. Bergstrom, . "On the Economics of Polygyny," ELSE working papers 042, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
  15. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection And The Origin Of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191, November.
  16. David Lam & Suzanne Duryea, 1999. "Effects of Schooling on Fertility, Labor Supply, and Investments in Children, with Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 160-192.
  17. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
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  1. > Demographic Economics > The Economics of Polygamy
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