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The Origins of the Institutions of Marriage

Author

Listed:
  • Marina E. Adshade

    () (Dalhousie University)

  • Brooks A. Kaiser

Abstract

Standard economic theories of household formation predict the rise of institutionalized polygyny in response to increased resource inequality among men. We propose a theory, within the framework of a matching model of marriage, in which, in some cases, institutionalized monogamy prevails, even when resources are unequally distributed, as a result of agricultural externalities that increase the presence of pair-bonding hormones. Within marriage, hormone levels contribute to the formation of the marital pair bond, the strength of which determines a man's willingness to invest in his wife's children. These pair bonds are reinforced through physical contact between the man and his wife and can be amplified by externalities produced by certain production technologies. Both the presence of additional wives and the absence of these externalities reduce the strength of the marital bond and, where the fitness of a child is increasing in paternal investment, reduce a woman's expected lifetime fertility. Multiple equilibria in terms of the dominant form of marriage (for example, polygyny or monogamy) are possible, if the surplus to a match is a function of reproductive success as well as material income. Using evidence from the Standard Cross Cultural Sample and Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, we find that agricultural production externalities that affect neurological pair-bonding incentives significantly reduce the tendency to polygyny, even when resource inequality is present.

Suggested Citation

  • Marina E. Adshade & Brooks A. Kaiser, 2008. "The Origins of the Institutions of Marriage," Working Papers 1180, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1180
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    File URL: http://qed.econ.queensu.ca/working_papers/papers/qed_wp_1180.pdf
    File Function: First version 2008
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Zak, Paul J. & Fakhar, Ahlam, 2006. "Neuroactive hormones and interpersonal trust: International evidence," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 412-429, December.
    2. Pryor,Frederic L., 2005. "Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521613477.
    3. Eric D. Gould & Omer Moav & Avi Simhon, 2008. "The Mystery of Monogamy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 333-357, March.
    4. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2005. "Sex, equality, and growth," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(3), pages 807-831, August.
    5. Graziella Bertocchi, 2006. "The Law of Primogeniture and the Transition from Landed Aristocracy to Industrial Democracy," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 43-70, March.
    6. Paul J. Zak, 2005. "The Neuroeconomics of Trust," Experimental 0507004, EconWPA.
    7. Pryor,Frederic L., 2005. "Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521849043.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Oxytocin; Vasopressin; Neurohormones; Marriage; Monogamy; Polygamy; Development of Institutions; Family structure;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

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