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The Origins Of The Institutions Of Marriage

Brooks Kaiser and Marina Adshade

No 1180, Working Paper from Economics Department, Queen's University

Abstract: Standard economic theories of household formation predict the rise of institutionalized polygyny in response to increased resource inequality among men. We propose a theory, within the framework of a matching model of marriage, in which, in some cases, institutionalized monogamy prevails, even when resources are unequally distributed, as a result of agriculturalexternalities that increase the presence of pair-bonding hormones. Within marriage, hormone levels contribute to the formation of the marital pair bond, the strength of which determines a man's willingness to invest in his wife's children. These pair bonds are reinforced through physical contact between the man and his wife and can be amplified by externalities produced by certain production technologies. Both the presence of additional wives and the absence of these externalities reduce the strength of the marital bond and, where the fitness of a child is increasing in paternal investment, reduce a woman's expected lifetime fertility. Multiple equilibria interms of the dominant form of marriage (for example, polygyny or monogamy) are possible, if the surplus to a match is a function of reproductive success as well as material income. Using evidence from the Standard Cross Cultural Sample and Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, wefind that agricultural production externalities that affect neurological pair-bonding incentives significantly reduce the tendency to polygyny, even when resource inequality is present.

Keywords: Oxytocin; Vasopressin; Neurohormones; Marriage; Monogamy; Polygamy; Development of Institutions; Family structure (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J12 N30 O43 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 35 pages
Date: 2008-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-lab and nep-neu
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (5) Track citations by RSS feed

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