Wives', especially senior wives', status in the community can be increased by the addition of other wives, who add to the family's prosperity or are a sign of conspicuous consumption (much like a large house, domestic help, or expensive vacations would be in a western country).
For such reasons, senior wives sometimes work hard or contribute from their own resources to enable their husbands to accumulate the bride price for a second wife.
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Anthropologist Jack Goody's comparative study of marriage around the world utilizing the Ethnographic Atlas demonstrated an historical correlation between the practice of extensive shifting horticulture and polygamy in the majority of sub-Saharan African societies.According to the Ethnographic Atlas (1998), of 1,231 societies noted, 588 had frequent polygyny, 453 had occasional polygyny, 186 were monogamous and 4 had polyandry; From a religious point of view, in contemporary society polygyny is associated with the Muslim religion, although not all Muslim cultures practice it, and neither is it restricted to this religion.In cultures which practice polygamy, its prevalence among that population is often connected to class and socioeconomic status.For men, the benefits of polygyny are that it allows them to have more children, may provide them with more productive workers (where workers are family), and allows them to establish politically useful ties with a greater number of kin groups.
Senior wives can benefit as well when their work load is lightened by the addition of junior wives to the family.
Drawing on the work of Ester Boserup, Goody notes that the sexual division of labour varies between the male-dominated intensive plough-agriculture common in Eurasia and the extensive shifting horticulture found in sub-Saharan Africa.