The Mystery of Monogamy

Hebrew University Economics Working Paper No. 2003

51 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2003

See all articles by Eric D. Gould

Eric D. Gould

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Omer Moav

University of Warwick - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Avi Simhon

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2004

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. However, our model demonstrates 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.

Keywords: Marriage, Monogamy, Polygyny, Human Capital, Inequality

JEL Classification: J12, J24, O10, O40

Suggested Citation

Gould, Eric D. and Moav, Omer and Simhon, Avi, The Mystery of Monogamy (December 2004). Hebrew University Economics Working Paper No. 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=437960 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.437960

Eric D. Gould

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel
+972 2 588 3247 (Phone)
+972 2 581 6071 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: https://sites.google.com/site/edgould

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Omer Moav (Contact Author)

University of Warwick - Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/academic/moav

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Avi Simhon

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem 91905, IL Jerusalem 91905
Israel
+972 2 588 3237 (Phone)
+972 2 581 6071 (Fax)

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