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The African Slave Trade and the Curious Case of General Polygyny

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  • Edlund, Lena
  • Ku, Hyejin

Abstract

General polygyny -- near universal marriage and polygyny -- is common in Africa. But why would men marry n wives for 1/n:th of the time instead of monogamously? Downsides include prolonged bachelorhood and a high degree of step-parenting. We point to the African slave trade which disproportionately removed young men, thus allowing old men to take young wives. Modeling endogenous social stigma, we argue that this temporary perturbation permanently changed the equilibrium to one where all men marry late and polygynously. Data are supportive: polygyny in Africa delays first marriage for men, raises under-five mortality, but does not predict life-long bachelorhood.

Suggested Citation

  • Edlund, Lena & Ku, Hyejin, 2011. "The African Slave Trade and the Curious Case of General Polygyny," MPRA Paper 52735, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 16 Dec 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:52735
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Giuliano, Paola, 2017. "Gender: An Historical Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 12183, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    General polygyny; African slave trade; social norms; multiple equilibria; child mortality;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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