Most research describing the biological response to unemployment appears appropriately motivated by clinical or public health concerns and focuses on death, disease, and medical care. We argue that expanding the work to include other outcomes could contribute to basic science. As an example, we use the response to mass layoffs to discriminate between two explanations of low ratios of male to female live births in stressed populations. One explanation asserts that ambient stressors reduce the ratio of males to females conceived. The other argues that the maternal stress response selects against males in utero. We show that selection in utero better explains the observed data. We conclude that human adaptation to the economic environment deserves scrutiny from a wider array of scientists than it now receives. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.