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Why is Polygyny More Prevalent in Western Africa?: An African Slave Trade Perspective

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Author Info

  • Dalton, John T.
  • Leung, Tin Cheuk

Abstract

Polygyny rates are higher in Western Africa than in Eastern Africa. The African slave trades explain this difference. More male slaves were exported in the trans-Atlantic slave trades from Western Africa, while more female slaves were exported in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea slave trades from Eastern Africa. The slave trades led to prolonged periods of abnormal sex ratios, which impacted the rates of polygyny across Africa. In order to assess these claims, we construct a unique ethnicity-level data set linking current rates of polygyny with historical trade flow data from the African slave trades. Our OLS estimates show a positive correlation between the trans-Atlantic slave trades and polygyny. An IV approach shows the relationship is causal and statistically signicant. We also provide cross-country evidence corroborating our findings.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 32598.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:32598

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Keywords: slave trades; polygyny; Africa; development;

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References

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  1. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176, 02.
  2. Eltis David & Richardson David, 1995. "Productivity in the Transatlantic Slave Trade," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 465-484, October.
  3. David Eltis & Frank D. Lewis & David Richardson, 2005. "Slave prices, the African slave trade, and productivity in the Caribbean, 1674-1807 -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 58(4), pages 673-700, November.
  4. 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.
  5. Avi Simhon & Eric D. Gould & Omer Moav, 2005. "The Mystery of Monogamy," 2005 Meeting Papers 370, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Michèle Tertilt, 2006. "Polygyny, Women's Rights, and Development," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 523-530, 04-05.
  7. Eltis, David & Engerman, Stanley L., 2000. "The Importance of Slavery and the Slave Trade to Industrializing Britain," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 123-144, March.
  8. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2001. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 298-319, April.
  9. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2009. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," NBER Working Papers 14783, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1341-1370, December.
  11. Eltis, David & Engerman, Stanley L., 2000. "The Importance of Slavery and the Slave Trade to Industrializing Britain," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 123-144, March.
  12. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 11-26 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Eltis, David & Lewis, Frank D. & McIntyre, Kimberly, 2010. "Accounting for the Traffic in Africans: Transport Costs on Slaving Voyages," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(04), pages 940-963, December.
  14. Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2006. "Marriage Laws and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 295-298, May.
  15. Hogerzeil, Simon J. & Richardson, David, 2007. "Slave Purchasing Strategies and Shipboard Mortality: Day-to-Day Evidence from the Dutch African Trade, 1751 1797," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(01), pages 160-190, March.
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Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. The polygyny-slave trade connection
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-09-08 14:54:00
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Cited by:
  1. Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2013. "Climate, ecosystem resilience and the slave trade," CEPR Discussion Papers 9449, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Whatley, Warren, 2012. "The Gun-Slave Cycle in the 18th century British slave trade in Africa," MPRA Paper 44492, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Edlund, Lena & Ku, Hyejin, 2011. "The African Slave Trade and the Curious Case of General Polygyny," MPRA Paper 52735, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 16 Dec 2013.
  4. James Fenske & Namrata Kala, 2014. "1807: Economic shocks, conflict and the slave trade," CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-02, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  5. James Fenske, 2012. "African polygamy: Past and present," CSAE Working Paper Series 2012-20, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  6. Lépine, Aurélia & Strobl, Eric, 2013. "The Effect of Women’s Bargaining Power on Child Nutrition in Rural Senegal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 17-30.
  7. Nathan Nunn, 2012. "Culture and the Historical Process," NBER Working Papers 17869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dalton, John & Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2013. "Dispersion and Distortions in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade," MPRA Paper 48224, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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