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Polygyny and Its Discontents: Paternal Age and Human Capital Accumulation

Edlund, Lena; Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter

In polygyny, the fact that some men take several wives deprives others. This crowding-out has a distinct age dimension: the remarrying men are older. In monogamy, on the other hand, men marry once and, under reasonable assumptions, when young. We study the implications of this age-heterogeneity in a two-sex overlapping generations model, where agents live for two adult periods. Men are fecund in both periods while women only in the first one. We model restrictions on polygyny as a restriction on resources that old men can devote to a new family. Such restrictions result in more women choosing young, i.e., previously unmarried, men. If young men respond to their enhanced familial role by reallocating time from leisure activities to the raising of offspring, then steady-state human capital is boosted. Our model thus captures a link from legal constraints on polygyny to economic development. We argue that the mechanism and results fit with stylized facts of polygyny over time and in the cross-section.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Department of Economics, Columbia University
Department of Economics Discussion Papers, 1213-11
Published Here
January 17, 2013