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The Fish is the Friend of Matriliny: Reef Density and Matrilineal Inheritance

Author

Listed:
  • Ariel Ben Yishay

    () (College of William and Mary)

  • Pauline Grosjean

    () (School of Economics, UNSW Business School, UNSW)

  • Joe Vecci

    () (University of Gothenburg)

Abstract

This paper studies the influence of marine ecology on social institutions of inheritance and descent. In a sample of 79 small-scale horticultural fishing communities in the Solomon Islands, and in samples of 186 to 1,267 societies across the world, we find that coral reef density systematically predicts the prevalence of matrilineal inheritance. Moreover, this result likely reflects adaptation of institutions to ecological conditions, as it holds within ethno-linguistic groups. Reef density explains as much as 10% of the variation in inheritance rules across villages in the Solomon Islands. Explanations based on the sexual division of labor and on inclusive fitness arguments support our results. We also document some of the demographic consequences of matrilineal inheritance, including smaller household and village population size, but find at best weak evidence that matrilineal inheritance translates into higher female economic or political agency.

Suggested Citation

  • Ariel Ben Yishay & Pauline Grosjean & Joe Vecci, 2016. "The Fish is the Friend of Matriliny: Reef Density and Matrilineal Inheritance," Discussion Papers 2016-20, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
  • Handle: RePEc:swe:wpaper:2016-20
    as

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    File URL: http://research.economics.unsw.edu.au/RePEc/papers/2016-20.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Vincent Leyaro & Pablo Selaya & Neda Trifkovic, 2017. "Fishermen’s wives: On the cultural origins of violence against women," WIDER Working Paper Series 205, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social norms; matrilineal inheritance; ecology; marine resources.;

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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