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The Mystery Of Monogamy

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  • Gould, Eric D.
  • Moav, Omer
  • Simhon, Avi

Abstract

This paper examines why developed countries are monogamous while rich men throughout history have tended to practice polygyny (multiple wives). Wealth inequality naturally produces multiple wives for rich men in a standard model of the marriage market. This paper argues that the sources of inequality, not just the level of inequality, determine the equilibrium degree of monogamy or polygamy. In particular, when inequality is determined more by disparities in human capital versus non-labor income (such as land, capital, corruption), the outcome is more monogamous. This explains why developed countries, where human capital is the main source of income and inequality, are monogamous while less-developed economies tend to be polygynous. The results are driven by the larger inequality in the value of women in the marriage market in modern economies. When the value of human capital increases, rich men increasingly value quality women who can help them raise quality children more efficiently. As a result, high quality women are valued much more than low quality women, which makes polygyny less affordable for rich men. In this manner, we show that male inequality generates polygyny, but female inequality reduces it. Using data from Cote d'Ivoire, we provide evidence for all the main implications of the model. In particular, we control for a man's total income and show that polygyny increases with non-labor income but decreases with labor income and education. These patterns are strong even within social groups where norms regarding polygyny are likely to be constant.

Suggested Citation

  • Gould, Eric D. & Moav, Omer & Simhon, Avi, 2003. "The Mystery Of Monogamy," Discussion Papers 14992, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Agricultural Economics and Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:huaedp:14992
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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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. Alistair Munro & Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona-Gomez & Arjan Verschoor, 2010. "The lion’s share. An experimental analysis of polygamy in Northern Nigeria," GRIPS Discussion Papers 10-27, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
    7. Fabio Mariani, 2012. "The economic value of virtue," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 323-356, December.
    8. Matthias Doepke & Michèle Tertilt, 2009. "Women's Liberation: What's in It for Men?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, pages 1541-1591.
    9. 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.
    10. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.
    11. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2010. "Pacifying monogamy," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 235-262, September.
    12. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Elgin, Ceyhun & Tumen, Semih, 2012. "Can sustained economic growth and declining population coexist?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 1899-1908.
    14. Julia Anna Matz, 2016. "Productivity, Rank, and Returns in Polygamy," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), pages 1319-1350.
    15. Fenske, James, 2010. "Institutions in African history and development: A review essay," MPRA Paper 23120, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Vogel, Edgar, 2009. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Child Labor, Schooling and Human Capital," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 08-42, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    17. Ahmed Mobarak & Randall Kuhn & Christina Peters, 2013. "Consanguinity and Other Marriage Market Effects of a Wealth Shock in Bangladesh," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(5), pages 1845-1871, October.
    18. John T. Dalton & Tin Cheuk Leung, 2014. "Why Is Polygyny More Prevalent in Western Africa? An African Slave Trade Perspective," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62(4), pages 599-632.
    19. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Marriage; Monogamy; Polygyny; Human Capital; Inequality; J12; J24; O10; O40; Labor and Human Capital;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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