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From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions

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  • David De La Croix
  • Fabio Mariani

Abstract

Marriage institutions have changed over time, evolving from polygyny to monogamy, and then to serial monogamy (as defined by divorce and remarriage). We propose a unified theory of such institutional changes, where the dynamics of income distribution are the driving force. We characterize the marriage-market equilibrium in each of the three alternative regimes, and determine which one emerges as a political equilibrium, depending on the state of the economy. In a two-class society, a rise in the share of rich males drives the change from polygyny to monogamy. The introduction of serial monogamy follows from a further rise in the proportion of either rich females or rich males. Monogamy eases the transition to serial monogamy, since it promotes social mobility.

Suggested Citation

  • David De La Croix & Fabio Mariani, 2015. "From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 565-607.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:82:y:2015:i:2:p:565-607
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdv001
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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