Tag Archives: Emmanuel Todd

Burkina Faso Wins! (Polygamy Edition)

Emmanuel Todd has gathered some interesting data on polygamy (actually polygyny) rates.

The world champion is Burkina Faso! Over half of its married women have co-wives. (What do all the leftover men do?)

Arab and African Polygamy Rates

(% of married women with co-wife)


Jordan 2002 6.8
Yemen 1997 7.1
Morocco 2003-04 4.7


Sudan 1978-79 20.2
Sudan   (North) 9.3
Sudan   (Darfur) 37.9
Mauretania 2000-01 11.6


Chad 1996-97 39.2
Chad   Muslims 35.6
Chad   Catholics 46.8
Chad   Animists 51.4
Mali 1996-97 44.3
Burkina   Faso 1998-99 54.7
Ivory   Coast 1994 36.6
Ivory   Coast Catholics 24.7
Ivory   Coast Muslims 44.5
Ivory   Coast Animists 47.2




In Arab countries 5-10% of women are in polygamous marriages. In black Africa, 30-55% of women. The highest levels are in interior West Africa.

Another difference: Arab-style marriage of parallel cousins [father’s brother’s daughter] is uncommon in Africa. Instead cross-cousin [between the children of brother and sister] or exogamous marriage is the norm.


Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd, A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies (Columbia UP, 2011) p. 44.



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Is Islamic Endogamy a Good Thing?

T. Greer calls Emmanuel Todd “the most under-rated “big idea” thinker in the field of world history.” Well, I thought I’d better take a look. Turns out that Todd is not the typical Parisian intellectual: he has a streak of Anglo empiricism. That’s all to the good.

His book A Convergence of Civilizations is mainly about how fertility rates in many Muslim countries are converging with Western and East Asian levels.

Endogamy, though, remains peculiar to many Islamic lands. Todd finds something good to say about it: a woman comes into the husband’s family as kin, not a stranger, hence she’s less likely to be tyrannized by the mother-in-law. The father does not control who the son marries, since the son has a right to his cousin.

But Todd does not mention the negatives of endogamy: the rule of cousins (cousinocracy), plus clannism (clanocracy). Oh, and the inbreeding depression.

The book has a useful table (p. 33):

Rates of Endogamy

(Muslim counries at the beginning of the 1990s)

Sudan 57

Pakistan 50

Mauretania 40

Tunisia 36

Saudi Arabia 36

Syria 35

Jordan 33

Oman 33

Yemen 31

Qatar 30

Kuwait 30

Algeria 27

Egypt 25

Morocco 25

UAE 25

Iran 25

Bahrain 23

Turkey 15

Bangladesh 10


Why these variations exist is a puzzle. Why is Pakistan high, but Bangladesh low?


Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd, A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies (Columbia UP, 2011).

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