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Scholars have argued that in farming systems where men do most of the agriculture work, a second wife can be an economic burden rather than an asset.In order to feed an additional wife, the husband must either work harder himself or he must hire laborers to do part of the work.The economist Michèle Tertilt concludes that countries that practice polygyny are less economically stable than those that practice monogamy.Polygynous countries usually have a higher fertility rate, fewer savings reserves, and a lower GDP.
Throughout the African polygyny belt stretching from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east, as many as a third to a half of married women are in polygynous unions, and polygyny is found especially in West Africa.
This implies that members of a tribe, which commands a certain territory, have a native right to take land under cultivation for food production and in many cases also for the cultivation of cash crops.
Under this tenure system, an additional wife is an economic asset that helps the family to expand its production.
Historically, polygyny was partly accepted in ancient Hebrew society, in classical China, and in sporadic traditional Native American, African and Polynesian cultures.
In India it was known to have been practiced during ancient times.