Polygyny and the Economic Determinants of Family Formation Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa

This paper studies how short term changes in aggregate economic conditions influence family formation outcomes in presence of polygyny. It develops a simple marriage market framework with overlapping generations in which polygyny is modeled as a sequential one-to-one matching and bride price acts as an important source of consumption smoothing. During drought years, the demand for second spouses from old men is more sensitive to the income and price drop compared to the demand for first/unique spouses that comes from younger men. This leads to an increase in the market share of young men and a much smaller rise in the equilibrium quantity of female child marriage compared to the one observed in monogamous markets. The attenuation effect is such that there is no detectable impact of droughts on the timing of marriage and fertility onset in high polygyny areas. Evidence from global crop price shocks confirms these patterns and shows that higher food prices affect marital outcomes in opposite directions in crop-producing and crop-consuming areas.

Link to paper: www.dropbox.com/s/n74ktuhadtt1tbg/draft_July2022.pdf?dl=0