Serial monogamy and hypergamous women

In her analysis, Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder found that although Pimbwe men
were somewhat more likely than their female counterparts to marry
multiple times, women held their own and even outshone men in the upper
Zsa Zsa Gabor end of the scale, of five consecutive spouses and
counting. And when Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder looked at who extracted the
greatest reproductive payoff from serial monogamy, as measured by who
had the most children survive past the first five hazardous years of
life, she found a small but significant advantage female. Women who
worked their way through more than two husbands had, on average, higher
reproductive success, a greater number of surviving children, than
either the more sedately mating women, or than men regardless of
wifetime total.

Here is more.  I believe those last two words — "wifetime total" — should in fact be "lifetime total."  This was interesting:

Provocatively, the character sketches of the male versus female
serialists proved to be inversely related. Among the women, those with
the greatest number of spouses were themselves considered high-quality
mates, the hardest working, the most reliable, with scant taste for the
strong maize beer the Pimbwe famously brew. Among the men, by contrast,
the higher the nuptial count, the lower the customer ranking, and the
likelier the men were to be layabout drunks.

“We’re so wedded
to the model that men will benefit from multiple marriages and women
won’t, that women are victims of the game,” Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder said.
“But what my data suggest is that Pimbwe women are strategically
choosing men, abandoning men and remarrying men as their economic
situation goes up and down.”

Dare one whisper "hypergamy"?

Comments

You have to remember that in sub-Saharan Africa, according to decades of anthropological research (e.g., Jack Goody), women do most of the work. The things that African feminist organizations complain about are often the inverse of what Western feminist organizations complain about: that they are forced into the workplace while the men lay about. One African feminist organization estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa, women put in 80% of the hours worked.

Much of the agricultural work in sub-Saharan Africa is weeding with light hoes, at which women are at least as good as men at. There's very little of heavy plowing behind draft animals, the classic medieval male peasant's job.

So, sub-Saharan African women are often valued on the marriage market for being sturdy workers, while men tend to be valued for things like being large land owners, good dancers, singers, athletes, fighters, conversationalists, and lovers.

Because wives do most of the work to feed themselves, their children, and their husband, sub-Saharan Africa is where you most often see mass scale polygamy: some handsome devil with several dozen wives.

How can the husband afford all those wives and children? Well, he's not paying much for them.

How can he keep all those wives satisfied and faithful? He's probably not. He's not keeping his wives home in a harem, he's sending them out into the fields to work, where lonely local bachelors try to lure them into the bushes. But if his nominal children include a number of cuckoos' eggs, it's no big deal. He's not paying much to keep them fed.

Any similarities between family structures in sub-Saharan Africa and family structure in, say, "The Wire" are wholly coincidental.

I think wifetime total is correct.

This is straight out of Roissy.

Yes, of course, David Simon is perfectly correct. If only our municipal institutions weren't wracked by budget cuts, America would have no problem whatsoever in dealing with a culture of low paternal investment in offspring that goes back to the origins of tropical agriculture 5,000 years ago.

Something that should interest economists is that both cultural and genetic propensities evolve according to economic incentives.

For example, among hunter-gatherers, polygamy is practiced only on a small scale and partly as a social welfare measure ("Yeah, my wife's sister's husband died, so I guess I'll have to marry her, too, or she and her kids will starve.")

As anthropologist Peter Frost has pointed out, this is especially true among cold-weather hunter-gatherers, such as the Eskimo. Women can't gather much in the dead of winter, so families are reliant for a large part of the year on the husband to hunt. This means that husbands can't afford too many wives.

At the other extreme are the kind of cultures that emerge out of tropical "female gardening" economies, where women do most of the work, and massive polygamy (even among handsome men not at the top of the social ladder) is affordable.

These economic incentives mold cultural and genetic tendencies, which can still be seen in 21st Century America.

At the other extreme are the kind of cultures that emerge out of tropical "female gardening" economies, where women do most of the work, and massive polygamy (even among handsome men not at the top of the social ladder) is affordable.

Yet polygamy is not common (as far as I know) in tropical parts of India and SE Asia. Could their economies be sufficiently different to make polygamy less desirable, or are there other factors?

Peter says:

"Yet polygamy is not common (as far as I know) in tropical parts of India and SE Asia. Could their economies be sufficiently different to make polygamy less desirable, or are there other factors?"

Excellent question.

Asian tropical economies tended toward very high density populations where men must work hard to get as much output per acre as possible. This limits the affordability of polygamy to the upper reaches of society.

In contrast, until very recently, Africa was largely underpopulated, except in a few higher altitude places like Rwanda and Burundi. John Reader's "Africa: Biography of a Continent" offers some possible explanations for this disparity, to which I'll add some of my own:

- The disease burden, especially falciparum malaria and sleeping sickness (which are mostly restricted to Africa), was so high in sub-Saharan Africa that people had too live in small villages spread out across the vast countryside to avoid epidemics.

- Humans co-evolved along with wild animals in Africa, so they are used to our tricks. Thus, huge animals, such as elephants, are a more serious competitor for humanity in Africa than elsewhere. Landscapes tended to be a checkerboard of places where humans were dense enough to keep elephants from eating their crops and places where humans couldn't farm because elephants had the upper hand. (Reader points to an island in Lake Victoria where there are no large wild animals and no sleeping sickness. Unlike most of Africa, it's densely populated with hard working farmers -- it sounds much like southeast Asia.)

- Perhaps rice is just so much superior to African crops at supporting high population densities.

- Africans didn't seem to invest much in defensive architecture (for whatever reason), so they were more susceptible to attack.

I'm surprised at the level of emotion on this topic. Why does efficient hypergamy by high-quality females stir up such a strong negative reaction from males?

This tropical farming system causes African cultures to tend toward polygamy and/or matrilineal-matrilocal family structures. These tendencies can still be seen among African-Americans.

Outside of the tropics, you have to be the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire or the equivalent to be able to afford a huge number of wives, along with the eunuch guards and all the other expensive rigmarole that go along with maintaining a harem.

But, in systems of tropical agriculture where land was traditionally cheap and most of the work is weeding, which women can do as well as men—as opposed to manhandling draft animals for plowing—you sometimes see handsome men with 50 or more wives.

Of course, the Big Man can't afford to keep them locked up in harems. So he puts them to work in the fields, where they can produce enough to support themselves and their children.

Now, the 49 local bachelors who are left over are going to try hard to lure the polygamist's wives out of the fields and into the bushes. So many of the children born to the Big Man's wives might not be his genetic offspring. But their mothers can support them—which means that some cuckoo's eggs aren't that big of a loss to him.

You CLEARLY do not know what you are talking about but it is immediately apparent to me that you have a different agenda so I will leave you to wax in your "knowledge". No amount of washing and cleaning will turn a pig into a dog.

I am only worried about other impressionable minds on here who lack first-hand knowledge of life in sub-Saharan Africa accepting your opinions as fact because they are seemingly well presented.

Thanks for a very interesting discussion of family structure in Africa. With regards to Steve's argument that absent fathers i US cities may have its roots in African family structures, I was just wondering about a possible link to slavery.

After all, the slaves seem to have lost most of their cultural heritage pretty fast in the US. Whereas, as far as I can tell, living under slavery shouldn't increase male propensity to care for their offspring: The owner automaticaly has an economic incentive to make sure the offspring survives, while the father's possibility to influence his offspring's chance of survival must be fairly limited.

Thank you for any comments.

@ Miss O
"I'm surprised at the level of emotion on this topic. Why does efficient hypergamy by high-quality females stir up such a strong negative reaction from males?"

It has nothing to do with hypergamy, it's really about Sailer's pseudo-scientifical racial posturing that he promotes in nearly every blog he visits. Google him and you'll find all of the information you need to know, and understand why he'll latch onto anything even remotely racial and stir it up.

"Sailer's pseudo-scientifical racial posturing "

Steve Sailer always seems to back up what he says with some very respected sources. You may not like what he has to say, but maybe you should attack him with some facts. I wish all the commenters on the blogs would document what they had to say as well.

I believe Thomas Sowell has written about marriage patterns after slavery, which were as high or higher among blacks compared to whites (same with employment). Some even walked across state lines to be reunited with families that had been split. Of course, the economics may have been different in a way more conducive to monogamy and parental investment.

MissO,

I'm surprised at the level of emotion on this topic. Why does efficient hypergamy by high-quality females stir up such a strong negative reaction from males?

Most men want to marry someone who will not cheat on and leave them if times get rough (the "for worse" part). We all know that if a husband has access to attractive females while his wife becomes less attractive, there is a lot of incentive to cheat on or leave his wife. Knowing the same temptation exists for women can be unsettling, especially since there are fewer or no cultural stigmas against a woman leaving her husband for a more successful man.

Pat Draper wrote the definitive paper on this topic IMHO:

@article{draper1989african,
title={{African marriage systems: Perspectives from evolutionary ecology}},
author={Draper, P.},
journal={Ethology and Sociobiology},
volume={10},
pages={145--69},
year={1989}
}

available online at
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=anthropologyfacpub

What she says is much the same as what Steve is saying. There is of course variation among individuals and among tribes. There are plenty of societies there where men get into working to feed their kids. The Ibo are one case, groups in northern Malawi another.

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Margaret

http://lotterymegamillions.net

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