Status and Reproduction in Humans: New Evidence for the Validity of Evolutionary Explanations on Basis of a University Sample


Martin Fieder, Rector's Office, University of Vienna, Dr Karl Lueger Ring 1, A-1010, Vienna, Austria. E-mail:


A strong positive relationship between reproductive success (offspring count) and status (position in the institutional hierarchy) is demonstrated in a contemporary sample of male university employees (n = 2693). Male academics in leading positions have more children than do other male employees. In female university employees (n = 2073), a negative relationship between status and reproductive success was found, but only if childless women were included in the analysis. Although a positive relationship between male status and offspring count has been predicted by evolutionary theory and was found in animal species and ‘traditional’ human societies, in modern societies most of the studies found no or even a negative relationship between status and reproductive success in males. We suggest that status may be a more important dimension for particular subsamples of modern society than for samples representing entire societies, so that associations might actually differ among subsamples. We suggest that analyses on a small and rather uniform level using modern large-scale hierarchical organizations (such as universities) are candidates for the investigation of appropriate ‘society subsets’. Our results may stress the importance of evolutionary predictions and may be of relevance for theoretical and empirical considerations at the levels of economics and administration.