Polygyny and fertility in the United Arab Emirates at the end of the 20th century

Wadha Alnuaimi, Texas A&M University
Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Texas A&M University

Most studies, especially those based on African societies, where polygyny is most prevalent note that female fertility is negatively associated with polygyny. This paper examines the polygyny-fertility relationship among married women in an oil-rich country, the United Arab Emirates. The data are drawn from a nationally representative sample conducted in 1998-1999 of UAE national women. A birth in the previous 12 months is used to compare the fertility between polygynous and monogamous wives. Polygynous wives are shown to be more likely than monogamous wives to have had a child in the past 12 months, even after controlling for husband’s age, woman’s residence, co-residence status, employment status, and so forth. Given this positive polygyny-fertility relationship, we discuss whether this form of marriage might become the basis of UAE policy to increase the fertility of UAE women, an important consideration given that UAE nationals comprise only 20 percent of the UAE population.

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Presented in Session 3: Demographic and prospective transitions of the Arab world population