CAP Senior Fellow: Polyandry Could Help the Poor

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• January 20, 2014 1:35 pm


A senior fellow for the Center for American Progress on Friday suggested polyandry as a means to boost the earnings of low-income households.

Women will have a hard time financially with only a single husband if that husband makes a low hourly wage, noted CAP scholar Judith Warner. The answer is simple, she said: Women should take multiple husbands.

We have to face reality. If low-wage men don’t present women with much of a good deal, why not double, or triple, or quadruple them up? Pool resources, boost household income, and promote family values at the same time?

I realize this is a little hard to envision. Polyandry — the practice of a woman taking more than one husband at a time — has traditionally been considered (by majority-male anthropologists) an all-but-impossible aberration. More recent research, however, has found more than 75 societies world-wide in which women take multiple husbands, an article by Alice Dregger revealed in the Atlantic last year. Polyandry, it turns out, can be an efficient way of dealing with tough times, and constrained resources.

Warner did not mention research showing that primarily monogamous societies tend to have lower levels of crime, violence, and poverty, or research showing that monogamy reduces rates of child abuse and neglect, intra-household conflict, and accidental death and homicide in the home.

She continued:

The United States would, of course, have to change its laws regarding marriage. But that’s not so impossible; Utah may already be en route to a much-weakened anti-polygamy law. And we’d have to find a way to have our new pro-polyandry law apply only to low-income households, to keep the whole income-inequality thing from taking off once again.  Somehow, I don’t think better-off men would raise a fuss about the constitutional issues.

Some polygamists see the increasing acceptance of gay marriage as a foothold from which to launch a campaign to legalize the practice of taking multiple spouses.

CAP Action Fund’s ThinkProgress has attacked corporations for supporting groups that advocate policies CAP disapproves of.

Comcast and Walmart, two of the think tank’s corporate supporters, did not respond to requests for comment on whether they support efforts by activists employed by the think tank they fund to legalize polyandry.

Published under: Center for American Progress