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Open Access Publications from the University of California

On the Economics of Polygyny


About 80% of all societies recorded by anthropologists are polygynous (men have many wives). Even our own society is less monogamous than claimed. This paper attempts to explain such mysteries as why bride prices and dowries are not ``opposites'', why polygamous societies are usually characterized by positive bride prices and dowry is mainly confined to monogamous societies, why polyandry (women having multiple husbands) is rare, but not extinct, and why the more you have to pay for a wife the better you will treat her.

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