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The Mystery of Monogamy

Author

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  • Eric D. Gould
  • Omer Moav
  • Avi Simhon

Abstract

We examine why developed societies are monogamous while rich men throughout history have typically practiced polygyny. Wealth inequality naturally produces multiple wives for rich men in a standard model of the marriage market. However, we demonstrate that higher female inequality in the marriage market reduces polygyny. Moreover, we show that female inequality increases in the process of development as women are valued more for the quality of their children than for the quantity. Consequently, male inequality generates inequality in the number of wives per man in traditional societies, but manifests itself as inequality in the quality of wives in developed societies. (JEL J12, J16, J24, Z13)

Suggested Citation

  • Eric D. Gould & Omer Moav & Avi Simhon, 2008. "The Mystery of Monogamy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 333-357, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:98:y:2008:i:1:p:333-57
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.1.333
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert Tamura, 1994. "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 323-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gould, Eric D. & Moav, Omer & Simhon, Avi, 2012. "Lifestyles of the rich and polygynous in Cote d’Ivoire," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(3), pages 404-407.
    2. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    3. Nils-Petter Lagerlof, 2002. "Sex, Equality, and Growth (in that order)," GE, Growth, Math methods 0212001, EconWPA.
    4. Ceyhun Elgin & Semih Tumen, 2010. "Can Sustained Economic Growth and Declining Population Coexist? Barro-Becker Children Meet Lucas," Working Papers 2010/11, Bogazici University, Department of Economics.
    5. Kudo, Yuya, 2014. "Religion and polygamy : evidence from the livingstonia mission in Malawi," IDE Discussion Papers 477, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    6. Fabio Mariani, 2012. "The economic value of virtue," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 323-356, December.
    7. 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.
    8. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2010. "Pacifying monogamy," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 235-262, September.
    9. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.
    10. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Edgar Vogel, 2009. "From Malthus to modern growth: child labor, schooling and human capital," MEA discussion paper series 09180, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    12. Matthias Doepke & Michèle Tertilt, 2009. "Women's Liberation: What's in It for Men?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1541-1591.
    13. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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