Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 235–262

Pacifying monogamy


DOI: 10.1007/s10887-010-9056-8

Cite this article as:
Lagerlöf, NP. J Econ Growth (2010) 15: 235. doi:10.1007/s10887-010-9056-8


This paper proposes a theory of institutionally imposed monogamy. In a society where many women are allocated to the elite, there are high returns for the non-elite men to rebel. Monogamy, or “constrained” polygyny, can pacify non-elite men, and thus serve the elite’s reproductive interests. The more unequal is the society, the stricter constraints the elite want to impose on themselves. This suggests how monogamy might have arisen in response to rising class cleavages, e.g., in the wake of the introduction of agriculture. Another result is that, if the elite can write a law that commits not only themselves but also any group that would come to replace them in a rebellion, then polygyny will be more constrained than if they cannot. We speculate that the Church in Europe may have facilitated the imposition of such binding constraints.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsYork UniversityTorontoCanada