Women for Polygamy

What can polygamy on the outskirts of Russia tell us about the effects of the financial crisis in less remote locales? A lot — or so says Cambridge anthropologist Caroline Humphrey: “In the 1990’s, Russia and central Asia experienced huge economic change: what a bank was, how your career was going, what you could expect from life, everything changed overnight. And of course it had a huge impact on people’s lives, from family life to politics, and polygamy is part of that whole scene. So far, we haven’t had such dramatic change in the west, but you never know.” Humphrey, who studies communities on the edges of the former Soviet Union, found that many men and women advocate polygamy for economic reasons. Men are in short supply and life on the rural farms many women live on is difficult. “Women say that the legalization of polygamy would be a godsend: it would give them rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits,” Humphrey told the Guardian. (HT: Marginal Revolution) [%comments]

David Chowes, New York City

Marx and other economists have pointed out the many implications capital structures have on many social institutions,

Eric M. Jones

I have almost forgotten why the government or anyone else cares a wit about the marriage issue. Is it factory workers and army draftees?

Age of consent.... that's it. Let people do whatever is they want. You want to marry your goat? Go ahead. Some of the goats I have met are better than people.


Oddly enough, neither the Old Testatment nor the New condemn polygamy. Even in the New Testament, only those who wished to be elders or bishops were admonished to be "the husband of one wife" (which, oddly enough, made both Jesus and the Apostle Paul ineligible to serve!).

In the West, we have an ingrained resistance to polygamy. But even as a conservative Christian, I can see that polygamy, in and of itself, could be a valuable thing. I consider all the single mothers who are struggling to raise children without a father and in poor economic conditions. Mix this young woman with a quality couple and a different dynamic takes over. You may reach a critical mass. Suddenly day care is not an issue, more hands are available to do keep up the house, there is greater safety for all, perhaps.

Unfortunately, most men would probably look at polygamy just as a way to have a threesome (which is not, I understand, how polygamy works), or for another sexual partner. The sexual aspect seems distasteful...until us men realize that that is PRECISELY the reason we married our wives in the first place! Yes, I loved being a friend to my wife and so forth, but I had plenty of friends--and I didn't want to marry any of them! No, being a Christian, I knew that it was wrong to have sex without being married...so I married (Paul said "it's better to marry than burn").

In America/the West, all these arguments mean nothing. Few women are going to "share" their husband with some newcomer who may or may not take over the starring role. But for all the horror stories of polygamous groups, I have also heard of women/wives acting almost like sisters (in the Mormon faith--since others didn't permit it).

Very simply, in it's IDEAL form, polygamy could be a good thing that could be beneficial for all involved, I imagine (at least from the inside, since outsiders would surely look down on it). The problem is that it would likely be rare indeed to have an ideal situation. Family and sexual politics would likely lead to problems...which is why, perhaps, that polygamy is usually practiced only in insulated religious communties around America.

As the Bible says again, "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient." It might not be a sin to have two wives, but it's likely deadly to do so...at least if you know my wife!



Pooling of economic resources would be a good reason to advocate for polygamy but as AaronS above said too many people are morally against this.

It also is forgotten that many recent immigrants from Africa practice polygamy albeit in a low key fashion. Often the father will get citizenship for himself and his minor children, Then the children are able to get their multple mothers, who are wives to the man, immigrated...


Only if I get to have more than one husband.


@AaronS Fantastic!!!

Rich Wilson

Why does everyone assume polygamy is one man with multiple wives? Would there not be situations where one woman with many husbands would be equally advantageous? Perhaps in countries where men outnumber women?

Mike C

Why not just match all these extra women up with all the extra men in China? Arbitrage would seem to be the solution from an economics standpoint.


Would you feel the same about polyandry? It should be just as advantageous for a successful career woman to have multiple husbands to take care of things.

Avi Rappoport

It does seem a rational response to a dearth of men. I wonder what China will do about their shortage of women.


2 Ideas about polygamy

1. Polygamy might be useful in societies with more women than men - othewise marriage will be restricted to the more attractive (often rich) men while the others will not find any wife at all...Which tends to makes communities rather instable.

2. Assume equal rights for man and woman. Than you can not restrict polygamy only to "one man - several wifes". You need to accept "one woman -several husbands" as well. This is the point where it can get a bit messy ;-). Imagine a woman married to three man, on of them having two other wives....


Where did the men go, the cities looking for labor wages?

Is the result sought in the former Soviet states truly polygamy? What's the relationship of peer wives going to be on these rural farms with one husband? I wonder to what extent Soviet collectivization ever made it to the areas in question, and how much the experience and/or nostalgia for these is driving this movement. i have a suspicion that the people working as farmers in these areas might be seeking a best-practices hybrid economic relationship somewhere between a Soviet kolkhoz and independent farms, and the story is getting tangled up in polygamy. Maybe it's the simplest way to achieve such a relationship under the law as it stands now?

science minded

I guess it might be supposed, by means of an analogy, that a woman with more than one husband is the norm of science. The trouble is- the comparison is not a real correct one or false.

The trouble begins when one believes or supposes that "anything goes" when it comes to the realm of science. It does not.

And if you think that I don't know what you are doing, you are `dead' wrong. That is it for now until the book is published-- Robyn Ann Goldstein, prospective date of publication --June, 2010.

Goldstein, 2009


If one man + multiple women makes economic sense, surely a "group marriage" of multiple men and women makes even more sense. Pooling incomes and consolidating living space is always cheaper, as any single person could tell you.


Polygamy, culturally, is generally practiced in societies where gender roles are strongly set with the man as the clear provider, and the female as the caretaker/child rearer. Frequently this is where the resources are scarce. When you operate under the assumption that there are certain things men can do that women can't and vice verse, the economic benefits of different arrangements seem more natural. In modern Wester though, though, individuals are more likely to think of themselves as independent units capable of providing for themselves, but choosing to pool resources and enter social contracts for the mutual benefits they can enjoy. From this viewpoint, sharing resources with yet another hardly seems beneficial, and often quite distasteful, since the initial union is not "necessary" but "desirable".


AaronS, you make a silly, but common, mistake. “the husband of one wife” dictum is a maximum, not a minimum. Jesus and Paul still qualify.

science minded

Dear Jones;

In an interesting way , you have a point, A not too well known scientist once wrote of the circle of the family as serving to protect children. The trouble is, as my husband suggested to me this morning, it does not always succeed. The child may well need a bit of a broader form of protection (for those times when the family is dys or non- functional.


Some points to consider:

1. Polygamy severely reduces genetic diversity very quickly within a few generations. Also, it means that mainly older men (who are richer) sire children with all the biological disadvantages that brings.

2. Surplus young males who cannot afford to marry create many social problems.

3. Men who have more than one wife don't tend to have spare money, unless those wives work and supply said money. Likewise they aren't going to be able to do the work of N husbands around those farms either (so the premise that legalising Polygamy is protection is wrong)

4. In countries where there is legal polygamy, there is a roaring trade in 'used wives' -- that is, older women who are 'remarried' by their patriarchs in charge and then put to work in factories (etc) in order to financially support the real family.

5. Polygamy means that the women no longer has any control and bargaining power over her life, and becomes chattel (there is no polygamous society in which women are not oppressed)

6. Children will not have a resident father if the women are not in one house and so, this creates many social problems later on. And if they are in one house, the sheer numbers of children will mean that there is almost no personal attention either.

7. If the women live together in one house, then even worse things occur socially, often the women bully each other brutally and/or live in a situation where intense competition and jealousy is the norm.

8. Polygamy means that young women become valuable commodities for trading and no longer can choose their own destiny or fall in love, but become slaves.

9. From this also follows that educating girls is a loss leader that only generates problems for their later owners.

There are more points, but I think those 9 are a good start to show why polygamy is a curse on humanity in general.



It should be pointed out that as far as I know in Europe, US and China there are many more young males single than single women. Something like 15 million of extra guys, younger than 30


I personaly know an instance where a man and three women have been together for about four years. The man has a bisexual wife and she convinced him to let her best friend live with them. Soon, another young lady moved in,making it four people. All three women are bisexual and the wife expects her husband to treat her and her "sisters" the same. They all sleep in the same huge bed every night and the husband makes love to the women in front of the others. This arrangement is working quite well and they seem to never have disagreements. Only one woman has a child by another man and all women accept the child. Sometimes polygamy works well if the females can get along.