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

Listed author(s):
  • Ariel Ben Yishay

    ()

    (College of William and Mary)

  • Pauline Grosjean

    ()

    (School of Economics, UNSW Business School, UNSW)

  • Joe Vecci

    ()

    (University of Gothenburg)

Registered author(s):

    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.

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    File URL: http://research.economics.unsw.edu.au/RePEc/papers/2016-20.pdf
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    Paper provided by School of Economics, The University of New South Wales in its series Discussion Papers with number 2016-20.

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    Length: 77 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2016
    Handle: RePEc:swe:wpaper:2016-20
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    Web page: http://www.economics.unsw.edu.au/
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