Polygyny among the Tsimane of Bolivia: an improved method for testing the polygyny-fertility hypothesis. Academic Article uri icon


  • The polygyny-fertility hypothesis states that polygyny is associated with reduced fertility for women and is supported by a large body of literature. This finding is important, because theoretical models of polygyny often differentiate systems based on the degree to which women are forced or willingly choose to enter polygynous marriages. The fact that polygyny tends to be associated with reduced fertility has been presented as evidence that polygyny is often less favourable for women, and that women must, therefore, be pressured into accepting such arrangements. Previous studies, however, have been hampered by the non-random assignment of women into monogamous and polygynous unions (i.e. self-selection), as differences between these groups of women might explain some of the effects. Furthermore, the vast majority of such studies focus on sub-Saharan populations. We address these problems in our analysis of women's fertility in polygynous marriages among the Tsimane of Bolivia. We offer a more robust method for assessing the impact of polygynous marriage on reproductive outcomes by testing for intra-individual fertility effects among first wives as they transition from monogamous to polygynous marriage. We report a significant link between polygyny and reduced fertility when including all cases of polygyny; however, this association disappears when testing only for intra-individual effects.

published proceedings

  • Proc Biol Sci

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Winking, J., Stieglitz, J., Kurten, J., Kaplan, H., & Gurven, M

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Winking, Jeffrey||Stieglitz, Jonathan||Kurten, Jenna||Kaplan, Hillard||Gurven, Michael

publication date

  • April 2013