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Beauty, Polygyny, and Fertility: Theory and Evidence

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  • Cahu, Paul
  • Fall, Falilou
  • Pongou, Roland

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; and (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

  • Cahu, Paul & Fall, Falilou & Pongou, Roland, 2014. "Beauty, Polygyny, and Fertility: Theory and Evidence," MPRA Paper 59009, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:59009
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mating Economy; Monogamy; Polygyny; Beauty; Status; Fertility; Contagion; Networks;
    All these keywords.

    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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