New arguments against polygamy

Prof. Grossbard said there are fewer women available to men in societies that permit polygamy – even for monogamous men, because they are drawing from the same pool of women.

Since that scarcity could increase what she describes as the women’s “bargaining power,” men in such societies have an incentive to ensure they retain control over who the women marry.

To that end, Prof. Grossbard said, polygamy is associated with teenage brides, arranged and forced marriages, payments to brides’ fathers, little emphasis on “romantic” love and poor access to education or the work force – all designed to restrict the ability of women to choose who they marry.

There is further discussion here.  I am not a fan of polygamy, but I find this argument strange (though not strictly impossible; men can behave preemptively and incur a large fixed cost to prevent a subsequent erosion of their control).  Surely Grossbard would not argue that all institutions which improve the bargaining power of women lead to…less bargaining power for women.  So why is polygamy so special in this regard?

For the pointer I thank John Chilton.  On polygamy, I once wrote:

Polygamy ends when children cease to be a net economic asset.  As society progresses and urbanizes, there are cheaper ways of having sex with multiple women, if that is one's goal. 

Here are previous MR posts on polygamy.


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