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Why is Polygyny More Prevalent in Western Africa?: An African Slave Trade Perspective

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  • Dalton, John T.
  • Leung, Tin Cheuk

Abstract

Polygyny rates are higher in Western Africa than in Eastern Africa. The African slave trades explain this difference. More male slaves were exported in the trans-Atlantic slave trades from Western Africa, while more female slaves were exported in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea slave trades from Eastern Africa. The slave trades led to prolonged periods of abnormal sex ratios, which impacted the rates of polygyny across Africa. In order to assess these claims, we construct a unique ethnicity-level data set linking current rates of polygyny with historical trade flow data from the African slave trades. Our OLS estimates show a positive correlation between the trans-Atlantic slave trades and polygyny. An IV approach shows the relationship is causal and statistically signicant. We also provide cross-country evidence corroborating our findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Dalton, John T. & Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2011. "Why is Polygyny More Prevalent in Western Africa?: An African Slave Trade Perspective," MPRA Paper 32598, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:32598
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    2. Eltis, David & Engerman, Stanley L., 2000. "The Importance of Slavery and the Slave Trade to Industrializing Britain," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 123-144, March.
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    6. Eltis David & Richardson David, 1995. "Productivity in the Transatlantic Slave Trade," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 465-484, October.
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    9. Michèle Tertilt, 2006. "Polygyny, Women's Rights, and Development," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 523-530, 04-05.
    10. Michele Tertilt, 2005. "Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1341-1370, December.
    11. Eltis, David & Lewis, Frank D. & McIntyre, Kimberly, 2010. "Accounting for the Traffic in Africans: Transport Costs on Slaving Voyages," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(04), pages 940-963, December.
    12. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages 11-26, Part II, .
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The polygyny-slave trade connection
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-09-08 19:54:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Barr, Abigail & Dekker, Marleen & Janssens, Wendy & Kebede, Bereket & Kramer, Berber, 2017. "Cooperation in polygynous households," IFPRI discussion papers 1625, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. repec:eee:exehis:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:80-104 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Graziella Bertocchi, 2016. "The legacies of slavery in and out of Africa," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, December.
    4. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    slave trades; polygyny; Africa; development;

    JEL classification:

    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • N17 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Africa; Oceania

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