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Cooperation in polygynous households

Barr, Abigail; Dekker, Marleen; Janssens, Wendy; Kebede, Bereket; Kramer, Berber

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Marleen Dekker

Wendy Janssens

Bereket Kebede

Berber Kramer


Using a carefully designed series of public goods games, we compare, across monogamous and polygynous households, the willingness of husbands and wives to cooperate to maximize household gains. Compared to monogamous husbands and wives, polygynous husbands and wives are less cooperative, one with another, and co-wives are least cooperative, one with another. The husbands’ and wives’ behavior in a corresponding series of inter-household games indicates that these differences cannot be attributed to selection of less cooperative people into polygyny. Finally, behavior in polygynous households is more reciprocal and less apparently altruistic.


Barr, A., Dekker, M., Janssens, W., Kebede, B., & Kramer, B. (2019). Cooperation in polygynous households. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 11(2), 266-283.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 2, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 13, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 1, 2019
Journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics
Print ISSN 1945-7782
Electronic ISSN 1945-7790
Publisher American Economic Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 2
Pages 266-283
Keywords household resource allocation; cooperative decision-making; polygyny; Nigeria
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