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The Mystery of Monogamy

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

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 where polygyny is not ruled out. Our model demonstrates, however, that while higher male inequality generates more polygyny, higher female inequality produces a more monogamous equilibrium. Moreover, we derive how female inequality in the marriage market is higher in equilibrium as women are valued more for their quality versus quantity of children when human capital becomes more important in determining the distribution of income. As a result, male inequality in traditional societies generates inequality in the number of wives per man, but male inequality in developed societies, where human capital is a larger source of income and inequality, manifests itself as inequality in the quality of their wives. Using data from Cote d’Ivoire, we provide supporting evidence for the main implications of the model.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4803.

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Date of creation: Dec 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4803
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  1. Ted Bergstrom, . "Primogeniture, Monogamy, and Reproductive Success in a Stratified Society," Papers _025, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
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  5. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality and the Process of Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1001-1026.
  6. Nils-Petter Lagerloef, 2003. "Sex, Equality, and Growth (in that order)," Macroeconomics 0310014, EconWPA.
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  10. Raquel Ferndez & Nezih Guner & John Knowles, 2001. "Love and Money: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Household Sorting and Inequality," Penn CARESS Working Papers d3d043317c8e26c4039c21aa0, Penn Economics Department.
  11. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  12. Michael Kremer, 1996. "How Much Does Sorting Increase Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 5566, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
  14. David Lam & Suzanne Duryea, 1999. "Effects of Schooling on Fertility, Labor Supply, and Investments in Children, with Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 160-192.
  15. Moav, Omer, 2001. "Cheap Children and the Persistence of Poverty," CEPR Discussion Papers 3059, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. 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 938-71, October.
  17. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
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