University of Bath

Social norms vs bargaining power: Evidence from polygamous households in Nigeria

Dr Jennifer Golan, Lecturer in Development Economics, talks about child labour differences between children in monogamous and polygamous households in Nigeria.

7 May 20191.15pm
7 May 20192.45pm
A mother and children in Nigeria
Children in Nigeria may work more or less depending on whether they are in a polygamous or monogamous household

Dr Jennifer Golan from the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, presents findings from her current project.


Using household survey data from Nigeria we analyse the variation in child labour supply across biological children within the household. We find that first born sons work longer hours than other children in monogamous households, but that bargaining power dominates birth order effects in polygamous households. In contrast with previous evidence, we find that children of the first wife work about one to five hours more per week and are less likely to attend school than children of other mothers.

To rationalise our findings, we develop a theoretical framework that investigates the amount of education a child receives versus the time spent in domestic production in polygamous households. We show that if child labour acts as a means of mothers to increase the share of resources allocated to their own offspring via inheritance, the effect of the mothers' rank on child labour is positive. Linking our data to ethnographic information, we find suggestive evidence that our results are driven by households in which the mother is not entitled to her husband’s inheritance.