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The Mystery of Monogamy

Author

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  • Avi Simhon

    () (Agricultural Economics and Management The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

  • Eric D. Gould
  • Omer Moav

Abstract

This Paper examines why developed countries are monogamous while rich men throughout history have tended to practice polygyny (multiple wives). Wealth inequality naturally produces multiple wives for rich men in a standard model of the marriage market where polygyny is not ruled out. Our model demonstrates, however, that while higher male inequality generates more polygyny, higher female inequality produces a more monogamous equilibrium. Moreover, we derive how female inequality in the marriage market is higher in equilibrium as women are valued more for their quality versus quantity of children when human capital becomes more important in determining the distribution of income. As a result, male inequality in traditional societies generates inequality in the number of wives per man, but male inequality in developed societies, where human capital is a larger source of income and inequality, manifests itself as inequality in the quality of their wives. Using data from Cote d’Ivoire, we provide supporting evidence for the main implications of the model.
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Suggested Citation

  • Avi Simhon & Eric D. Gould & Omer Moav, 2005. "The Mystery of Monogamy," 2005 Meeting Papers 370, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed005:370
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Raquel Fernández & Nezih Guner & John Knowles, 2005. "Love and Money: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Household Sorting and Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 273-344.
    3. Nils-Petter Lagerlof, 2002. "Sex, Equality, and Growth (in that order)," GE, Growth, Math methods 0212001, EconWPA.
    4. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
    6. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2000. "Ability-Biased Technological Transition, Wage Inequality, and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 469-497.
    7. Theodore C. Bergstrom, "undated". "Primogeniture, Monogamy and Reproductive Success in a Stratified Society," ELSE working papers 044, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
    8. Theodore C. Bergstrom, "undated". "On the Economics of Polygyny," ELSE working papers 042, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
    9. David Lam & Suzanne Duryea, 1999. "Effects of Schooling on Fertility, Labor Supply, and Investments in Children, with Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 160-192.
    10. Omer Moav, 2005. "Cheap Children and the Persistence of Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(500), pages 88-110, January.
    11. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert Tamura, 1994. "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 323-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality and the Process of Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1001-1026.
    13. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
    14. Raquel Fernandez & John Knowles & Nezih Guner, 2001. "Love and Money: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Household Sorting and Inequality," LIS Working papers 283, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    15. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 279-288, Part II, .
    16. Raquel Fernández & Richard Rogerson, 2001. "Sorting and Long-Run Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1305-1341.
    17. Jacoby, Hanan G, 1995. "The Economics of Polygyny in Sub-Saharan Africa: Female Productivity and the Demand for Wives in Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 938-971, October.
    18. Michael Kremer, 1997. "How Much does Sorting Increase Inequality?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 115-139.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Why has monogamy prevailed?
      by nawmsayn in ZeeConomics on 2014-05-11 19:49:27

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Gould, Eric D. & Moav, Omer & Simhon, Avi, 2012. "Lifestyles of the rich and polygynous in Cote d’Ivoire," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(3), pages 404-407.
    2. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    3. Nils-Petter Lagerlof, 2002. "Sex, Equality, and Growth (in that order)," GE, Growth, Math methods 0212001, EconWPA.
    4. Ceyhun Elgin & Semih Tumen, 2010. "Can Sustained Economic Growth and Declining Population Coexist? Barro-Becker Children Meet Lucas," Working Papers 2010/11, Bogazici University, Department of Economics.
    5. Kudo, Yuya, 2014. "Religion and polygamy : evidence from the livingstonia mission in Malawi," IDE Discussion Papers 477, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    6. Fabio Mariani, 2012. "The economic value of virtue," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 323-356, December.
    7. Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2006. "Marriage Laws and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 295-298, May.
    8. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2010. "Pacifying monogamy," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 235-262, September.
    9. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.
    10. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Edgar Vogel, 2009. "From Malthus to modern growth: child labor, schooling and human capital," MEA discussion paper series 09180, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    12. Matthias Doepke & Michèle Tertilt, 2009. "Women's Liberation: What's in It for Men?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1541-1591.
    13. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Marriage; Monogamy; Polygyny; Human Capital;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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