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American Economic Review: Vol. 98 No. 1 (March 2008)

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The Mystery of Monogamy

Article Citation

Gould, Eric D., Omer Moav, and Avi Simhon. 2008. "The Mystery of Monogamy." American Economic Review, 98(1): 333-57.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.1.333

Abstract

We examine why developed societies are monogamous while rich men throughout history have typically practiced polygyny. Wealth inequality naturally produces multiple wives for rich men in a standard model of the marriage market. However, we demonstrate that higher female inequality in the marriage market reduces polygyny. Moreover, we show that female inequality increases in the process of development as women are valued more for the quality of their children than for the quantity. Consequently, male inequality generates inequality in the number of wives per man in traditional societies, but manifests itself as inequality in the quality of wives in developed societies. (JEL J12, J16, J24, Z13)

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Authors

Gould, Eric D. (Hebrew U Jerusalem and IZA, Bonn)
Moav, Omer (Hebrew U Jerusalem and Royal Holloway College, U London)
Simhon, Avi (Hebrew U Jerusalem)

JEL Classifications

J12: Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure; Domestic Abuse
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
J24: Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology


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