WHEN ONE WIFE IS ENOUGH: A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF THE DETERMINANTS OF MONOGAMY

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Abstract

Multiple proposed determinants of the long-term historical shift in marriage preference from polygynous to monogamous unions are tested simultaneously using data on a worldwide sample of 186 pre-industrial societies. Since the diffusion of monogamy though conquest and population migration is well documented, we employ network autocorrelation regression models that include the cultural transmission of monogamy as an endogenous predictor variable. Linguistic and spatial transmission processes are found to be significant factors that jointly affect the world-wide variance of monogamy, while religious transmission processes are not significant, suggesting genomic variation may play a role in shaping the incidence of monogamy. Other significant factors are reduction of extrinsic risks due to pathogen stress and endemic violence, a highly articulated extra-household division of labor, and a beneficent environment, results which are consistent with female choice as a binding constraint in marriage decisions.

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