Polygamy Is a Problem for Economic Development
Though a rarity in most places, polygamy is pervasive in a batch of countries situated in West and Central Africa, including Burkino Faso (36 percent), Mali (34 percent), and Nigeria (38 percent). Economist James Fenske in a 2011 paper discussing polygamy in Africa provides some shocking statistics: “Of the nearly half a million women included in the data for this study, roughly 40% who first married in 1970 share their husband today, while for women who married in 2005, that number is closer to 15%.” A crucial observation is that the percentage of women in polygamous relationships has declined; however, at 15 percent this figure is still relatively high.
As such the persistence of polygamy in Africa has attracted the attention of economists who argue that polygamy is negatively associated with development. Michèle Tertilt (2003) observes that sub-Saharan African countries where polygyny is widespread are the poorest countries in the world, with their per capita gross domestic product (GDP) being 25 percent lower than those of other countries in the region and a mere 40 percent of the GDP of other monogamous countries located in the same latitude range. The explanation is that in such societies purchasing wives is indicative of high status and moreover the families of women gain financially when their suitors pay the bride-price. Hence reliance on the bride-price as a business strategy crowds out investment.
Because under monogamous arrangements men are unlikely to pursue multiple women, they can divert more resources to productive investments, the
Article from Mises Wire