Cultural versus reproductive success: Why does economic development bring new tradeoffs?

Authors

  • Lesley Newson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis, Davis, California, USA
    2. School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
    • Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis, Davis, California, USA
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Abstract

Achievements that attract social rewards in developed countries, such as educational qualifications, a prestigious career, and the ability to acquire prestige goods, interfere with a woman's ability to achieve reproductive success. This tradeoff between cultural and reproductive success may have developed because economic development creates an evolutionarily novel social environment. In the social environment of developed countries, a far smaller proportion of social exchange is between kin than in the small-scale communities in which the human brain and behavior evolved. Evidence suggests that social interaction between non-kin is less likely to encourage behavior that enhances inclusive fitness. A model of the cultural change that is likely to result from this change in social influence suggests that beliefs and values will become increasingly less consistent with the pursuit of fitness (Newson et al. [2007]: Evol Hum Behav 28: 199–210). Responses to the World Value Survey, which has been carried out in over 70 countries, confirm a number of the predictions of this model. In countries where fertility began to decline more recently, people appear to perceive the costs of having children to be lower relative to the cost of childlessness and the benefits of being a parent. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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