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The Origins of the Institutions of Marriage

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Author Info

  • Marina E. Adshade

    ()
    (Dalhousie University)

  • Brooks A. Kaiser

Abstract

Standard economic theories of household formation predict the rise of institutionalized polygyny in response to increased resource inequality among men. We propose a theory, within the framework of a matching model of marriage, in which, in some cases, institutionalized monogamy prevails, even when resources are unequally distributed, as a result of agricultural externalities that increase the presence of pair-bonding hormones. Within marriage, hormone levels contribute to the formation of the marital pair bond, the strength of which determines a man's willingness to invest in his wife's children. These pair bonds are reinforced through physical contact between the man and his wife and can be amplified by externalities produced by certain production technologies. Both the presence of additional wives and the absence of these externalities reduce the strength of the marital bond and, where the fitness of a child is increasing in paternal investment, reduce a woman's expected lifetime fertility. Multiple equilibria in terms of the dominant form of marriage (for example, polygyny or monogamy) are possible, if the surplus to a match is a function of reproductive success as well as material income. Using evidence from the Standard Cross Cultural Sample and Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, we find that agricultural production externalities that affect neurological pair-bonding incentives significantly reduce the tendency to polygyny, even when resource inequality is present.

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File URL: http://qed.econ.queensu.ca/working_papers/papers/qed_wp_1180.pdf
File Function: First version 2008
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Queen's University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1180.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1180

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Related research

Keywords: Oxytocin; Vasopressin; Neurohormones; Marriage; Monogamy; Polygamy; Development of Institutions; Family structure;

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References

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  1. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2005. "Sex, equality, and growth," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(3), pages 807-831, August.
  2. Eric D. Gould & Omer Moav & Avi Simhon, 2008. "The Mystery of Monogamy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 333-57, March.
  3. Bertocchi, Graziella, 2003. "The Law of Primogeniture and the Transition from Landed Aristocracy to Industrial Democracy," CEPR Discussion Papers 3723, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Zak, Paul J. & Fakhar, Ahlam, 2006. "Neuroactive hormones and interpersonal trust: International evidence," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 412-429, December.
  5. Pryor,Frederic L., 2005. "Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521849043, December.
  6. Pryor,Frederic L., 2005. "Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521613477, December.
  7. Paul J. Zak, 2005. "The Neuroeconomics of Trust," Experimental 0507004, EconWPA.
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Cited by:
  1. James Fenske, 2012. "African Polygamy: Past and Present," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2012-20, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Fenske, James, 2010. "Institutions in African history and development: A review essay," MPRA Paper 23120, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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  1. Talk:Marriage/Archive 9 in Wikipedia (English)

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