To the big men go the women!

By Razib Khan | January 21, 2009 11:05 pm

Market forces affect patterns of polygyny in Uganda:

Polygynous marriage is generally more beneficial for men than it is for women, although women may choose to marry an already-married man if he is the best alternative available. We use the theory of biological markets to predict that the likelihood of a man marrying polygynously will be a function of the level of resources that he has, the local sex ratio, and the resources that other men in the local population have. Using records of more than 1 million men in 56 districts from the 2002 Ugandan census, we show that polygynously married men are more likely to own land than monogamously married men, that polygynous marriages become more common as the district sex ratio becomes more female biased, that owning land is particularly important when men are abundant in the district, and that a man’s owning land most increases the odds of polygyny in districts where few other men own land. Results are discussed with reference to models of the evolution of polygyny.

My piece for The Guardian, Monogamy: bucking the trend?, was fundamentally an argument against natural short term market forces.


Comments (1)

  1. Tod

    I think they have it backwards as far as rural Uganda is concerned. Men there try to get rich by getting extra wives

    But why is it the more wives he has got, the more land he can command as the [UN] Economic Commission for Africa says. The explaination lies in the fact that individual property in land is far from being the only system of land tenure in Africa. […] Members of a tribe which commands a certain territory have a native right to take land under cultivation for food production and in many cases for the production of cash crops. Under this tenure system an additional wife is an additional economic asset

    Economics of Polygyny

    The food-provisioning gender gap
    even reversed itself where agriculture could be practiced year-round. Tropical agriculture
    allowed women to become primary food producers, thus freeing men to take second
    wives. In short, the costs of polygyny became negative (van den Berghe, 1979, pp. 65-



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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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