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Polygyny: Cooperation vs. Competition among Wives on Child Health

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  • Han, Peter
  • Foltz, Jeremy

Abstract

Although the prevalence of polygyny has decreased in the world in recent years, polygyny still remains as a frequent family structure in West Africa. Using 2006 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) from Mali, we investigate the effects of polygyny on child health. Using the gender of the firstborn as an instrumental variable for marrying an additional wife, we find that a child’s nutritional status in terms of height-for-age and weight-for-age z-scores is worse in polygynous households compared to monogamous households. Second, we analyze the effect of mother’s rank among co-wives on her own child’s health and find that mother’s rank has a statistically significant effect on a child’s nutritional status. However, the effect of mother’s rank changes across different institutions of polygyny: depending on the ethnic group, the co-wife relationship could be more collaborative than competitive. The findings suggest a more nuanced view of polygyny than currently found in the literature: the effect of the institution of polygyny depend upon the rules governing behavior within the institution.

Suggested Citation

  • Han, Peter & Foltz, Jeremy, 2015. "Polygyny: Cooperation vs. Competition among Wives on Child Health," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205722, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea15:205722
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.205722
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1341-1370, December.
    3. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, May.
    4. Grossbard,Shoshana A. (ed.), 2003. "Marriage and the Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521891431.
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    6. Kazianga, Harounan & Klonner, Stefan, 2009. "The Intra-household Economics of Polygyny: Fertility and Child Mortality in Rural Mali," MPRA Paper 12859, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. 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.
    8. Jacoby, Hanan G, 1995. "The Economics of Polygyny in Sub-Saharan Africa: Female Productivity and the Demand for Wives in Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 938-971, October.
    9. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy & Analia Schlosser, 2010. "Multiple Experiments for the Causal Link between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 773-824, October.
    10. Ted Bergstrom, "undated". "On the Economic of Polygyny," Papers _032, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
    11. Grossbard,Shoshana A. (ed.), 2003. "Marriage and the Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521814546.
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    Cited by:

    1. Owoo, Nkechi S. & Upton, Joanna & Bageant, Elizabeth, 2017. "Food Insecurity and Family Structure in Nigeria," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258469, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. Vellore Arthi & James Fenske, 2018. "Polygamy and child mortality: Historical and modern evidence from Nigeria’s Igbo," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 97-141, March.

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