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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


"Altruism, Cooperation, and Efficiency: Agricultural Production in Polygynous Households." (Previous version available as IZA Discussion Paper Series No. 6265)

Altruism among family members can, in some cases, inhibit cooperation by increasing the utility that players expect to receive in a non-cooperative equilibrium. To test this, we examine agricultural productivity in polygynous households in West Africa. We find that cooperation is greater – production is more efficient – among co-wives than among husbands and wives because co-wives are less altruistic towards each other. The results are not driven by selection into polygyny, greater propensity for cooperation among women, or household heads enforcing others’ cooperative agreements.

Date published: 
Thursday, December 1, 2011