Thursday, July 31, 2008

mystery of monogamy

Thus far, all of the papers that I've included on this blog have been empirical papers, in which the authors have used data to answer their questions. Not all papers consider data. Many papers develop mathematical models of behavior to predict how people/institutions behave. This is the field of economics that I specialize in. Admittedly, however, these "theory" papers are usually more interesting to economists than to the general population.

"The Mystery of Monogamy" -- which appeared in the American Economic Review earlier this year -- is one theory paper that may appeal to the general population. Eric Gould, Omer Moav , and Avi Simhon (all three at Hebrew University, Jerusalem) attempt to understand "why developed societies are monogamous while rich men throughout history have typically practiced polygyny." They suggest that in traditional societies, what mattered was the number not the quality of children. In developed societies the opposite is true: quality matters. Therefore, in developed societies women are valued more for the quality (not quantity) of their children. This causes men to prefer attracting one high-quality women, rather than multiple average women.

The Mystery of Monogamy

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