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They are most likely to say that without polygamy, many women would never find a husband — since “everyone knows” that women far outnumber men in this part of the world.
Polygamy, in this view, is an institutional adaptation to Mali’s supposed female overpopulation problem.
But rates in these countries are likely to be closer to those in Pakistan or Yemen than those in Mali or Niger.) As the chart I’ve put together below indicates, Islam is not the only relevant factor here; being in a West African society correlates much more strongly with polygamous marriage than being in a Muslim society does.Such levels of polygamy are not found outside West Africa, even in other majority-Muslim countries.The polygamy rate in Mauritania, Mali’s predominantly Arab neighbor to the northwest, is about 12%, while in Yemen and Pakistan it’s only 7%.Focus groups aren’t very useful for learning about individuals’ experiences or beliefs — people don’t share many personal details in them — but they’re great for identifying normative views and showing how these views vary (or don’t) across demographics.One question we ask is, “Do you think there are as many women as men in Bamako? ” The responses generated are surprisingly uniform: young or old, male or female, non-literate or university-trained, Bamakois are very likely to say that more women than men live in their city.
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A key part of my current Bamako research is discussions with groups of 8 to 10 city residents, in which my research assistants and I ask questions pertaining to family and marriage.