Emory Law Journal


This Essay examines the link between polygyny, or one man who is married to multiple woman, and the physical security of women and children, and political rights and civil liberties using a unique dataset of 171 countries drawn from the WomanStats project. Controlling for the independent effects of Gross Domestic Product and sex ratio, we find statistically significant relationships between polygyny and an entire downstream suite of negative consequences for men, women, children, and the nation-state, including the following outcomes: discrepancy between law and practice concerning women¿s equality, birth rate, rates of primary and secondary education for male and female children, difference between males and females in HIV infection, age of marriage, maternal mortality, life expectancy, sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, inequity in the treatment of males and females before the law, defense expenditures, and political rights and civil liberties. Elevated frequency of polygynous marriage thus tends to be associated with increases in behavioral constraints and physical costs experienced by women and children in particular but also exerts effects that redound poorly to the majority of poor men as well.