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An evolutionary theory of monogamy

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  • Francesconi, Marco
  • Ghiglino, Christian
  • Perry, Motty

Abstract

This paper presents a non-cooperative evolutionary model to explain the widespread diffusion of lifelong monogamous families. The essential condition, unique to humans, is the overlap of children of different ages. Under this condition, together with the salience of paternal investment and fatherhood uncertainty, monogamy attains a greater survivorship than serial monogamy and polygyny. This result is robust to a number of extensions, including the presence of kin ties, resource inequality, group marriage, and the risk of adult mortality.

Suggested Citation

  • Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2016. "An evolutionary theory of monogamy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 605-628.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:166:y:2016:i:c:p:605-628
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jet.2016.10.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Alger, Ingela, 2020. "Monogamy: exception or rule?," TSE Working Papers 20-1093, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Alger, Ingela, 2015. "How many wives do men want? On the evolution of preferences over polygyny rates," TSE Working Papers 15-586, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Oct 2016.
    3. Alger, Ingela & Cox, Donald, 2020. "Evolution of the Family: Theory and Implications for Economics," IAST Working Papers 20-109, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Overlapping generations; Free riding; Serial monogamy; Polygyny; kinship; Social norms;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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