Theory as guide to the analysis of polygyny and conflict: A response to Ash (2022)

Clara Neupert-Wentz*, Carlo Koos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Ash (2022, "Ash" hereafter), in this journal, re-assesses our 2020 article “Polygynous Neighbors, Excess Men, and Intergroup Conflict in Africa.” The article analyzed the relationship between polygyny (one man marrying several wives) and intergroup conflict events in Africa. Ash includes assessments that support our original results, though others lead Ash to call our findings into question. While some of Ash’s data transformations are reasonable robustness tests, others seem to be insufficiently rooted in theory and ignore statistical power. Specifically, using fatality counts as an outcome requires theorization, in particular against the backdrop of different underlying theoretical mechanisms, issues of measurement accuracy, and other statistical considerations. Overall, we argue that there are good theoretical and statistical reasons why some of the operationalizations in Ash are not appropriate substitutes for our outcome variable. We appreciate the re-assessment but dismiss the claim in Ash that its findings give sufficient evidence to change the conclusion in our article.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch and Politics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 2023


  • conflict severity
  • intergroup conflict
  • polygyny
  • Robustness


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