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Beauty, Polygyny and Fertility: Theory and Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Paul Cahu

    () (The World Bank - The World Bank)

  • Falilou Fall

    () (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Roland Pongou

    () (University of Ottawa [Ottawa])

Abstract

We propose a simple model of a mating economy in both monogamous and polygynous cultures, and derive implications for how polygyny affects individual and aggregate fertility. We find that an attractive woman is more likely to find a high-status husband. However, when polygyny is allowed, high-status husbands naturally attract other women; this implies that female beauty increases the likelihood of entering into a polygynous relationship. A woman in a polygynous relationship produces fewer children than a woman in a monogamous relationship as long as the preference for reproduction relative to consumption is not too strong. However, the societal practice of polygyny increases aggregate fertility through two distinct channels: (1) by increasing the number of marriages; (2) by triggering fertility contagion: a woman, whether involved in a monogamous or polygynous relationship, produces more children as polygyny becomes more prevalent in her neighborhood. We empirically validate each of the model's key predictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Cahu & Falilou Fall & Roland Pongou, 2014. "Beauty, Polygyny and Fertility: Theory and Evidence," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01130403, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:halshs-01130403
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01130403
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    mating economy; monogamy; polygyny; beauty; status; fertility; contagion; networks;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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