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Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings

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  • Michele Tertilt

Abstract

Sub-Saharan Africa has a high incidence of polygyny. It is also the poorest region of the world. In this paper I ask whether banning polygyny could play any role for development. Using a quantitative model of polygyny, I find that enforcing monogamy lowers fertility, shrinks the spousal age gap, and reverses the direction of marriage payments. Polygyny leads to high bride-prices to "ration" women, which makes buying wives and selling daughters a good investment, thus crowding out investment in physical assets. For reasonable parameter values, I find that banning polygyny decreases fertility by 40 percent, increases savings by 70 percent, and increases output per capita by 170 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1341-1370, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:113:y:2005:i:6:p:1341-1370
    DOI: 10.1086/498049
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