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Polygamy leading to more metrosexuals

Here’s another post from me on the economics-marriage combination, it’s caught my attention now.

This interesting article: on polygamy and the marriage market has a nice view on the subject. While the general view against polygamy is because of its undermining role for women, this article turns it around, making males the victims.

If polygamy existed, and say a man would have 3 wives, this would lead to men having to win the attention of ‘scarce women’. The ‘positional arms race’ creates an inefficient situation that we also see in the world of animals (in which 96% is polygamous). Frank discusses the example of elephant seals that, when larger, are favoured by natural selection in getting females for the harem since their size helps then win the battle for females against other male seals.  But, at the same time, their enormous size makes them less mobile and more vulnerable to predators.

Frank argues that allowing polygamy in humans would ‘unleash [similar] competitive forces’ with women being in shorter supply. And funnily enough, this would lead to even more metrosexual men, who would be facing pressure to look good & be fit, as well as buying more expensive gifts to win over the women (yes, plural) of their dreams. Even then, some men would be left out. Naturally this would even be the case if only a small percentage of the population chose to be polygamous, and the rest monogamous.

So, the law of monogamy (at least in most countries) functions as a control to spare men this kind of trouble for us women (at least somewhat).. 😉



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Marriage – a mutual insurance system?


Marriage may not always be as romantic as it appears. Especially if you ask economists.

Rosenzweig & Stark (1989) show that in rural India marriages sometimes act as a mutual insurance systems for family members. This is because in rural towns  income is often based on agriculture, which is dependent on weather. Thus, families live more distant from one another so as to reduce the correlation between rainfall (or other factors, like political turmoil, etc). If something happens in one place (e.g. flood), then at least the other place will most likely still be OK. This means that the other place can send remittances to the worse-off family members (‘interhousehold financial transfers’) to ensure financial stability, in essence pooling risk.

Not sure how relevant this currently is…but still it’s an interesting thought!


Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India, by Mark R. Rosenzweig and Oded Stark

The Journal of Political Economy © 1989 The University of Chicago Press.

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