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Polygyny and the Rate of Population Growth

Helena Chojnacka
Population Studies
Vol. 34, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), pp. 91-107
DOI: 10.2307/2173697
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2173697
Page Count: 17
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Polygyny and the Rate of Population Growth
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Abstract

The roots, motives and feasibility of practising polygyny in societies with a balanced sex structure and the effect of polygyny on the rate of population growth are considered. High demand for labour combined with limited supply over the last several centuries, had been conducive to the evolution of a polygynous nuptiality pattern. The unprecedentedly high rates of population growth during the last several decades combined with progressive economic development have led to a change in the role of the labour factor and consequently diminished its impact upon polygyny. Polygyny is feasible because of a sex-age differential at first marriage, which enables younger cohorts of women to enter the marriage market, and thus results in a very early age at first marriage and universal incidence of marriage among women. A very young pattern of nuptiality inevitably evolves under polygyny, which tends to raise the rate of population growth. No significant variation in fertility between polygynous and monogamous women was found but substantial gaps in standards of living, child mortality, and educational attainment were noted for polygynous households. The findings imply that during the transition from polygyny to monogamy family size will tend to diminish, although initially fertility may not decline concurrently with changing socio-economic status. The most important effects on the rate of population growth thus result from the increase in age at first marriage and declining proportions of ever married women.

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