SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • menopause;
  • fertility;
  • senescence;
  • intergenerational transfers;
  • human life history

This paper presents a new two-sex learning- and skills-based theory for the evolution of human menopause. The theory proposes that the role of knowledge, skill acquisition, and transfers in determining economic productivity and resource distribution is the distinctive feature of the traditional human ecology that is responsible for the evolution of menopause. The theory also proposes that male reproductive cessation and post-reproductive investment in descendants is a fundamental characteristic of humans living in traditional foraging and simple horticultural economies. We present evidence relevant to the theory. The data show that whereas reproductive decline is linked to increasing risks of mortality in chimpanzees, human reproductive senescence precedes somatic senescence. Moreover under traditional conditions, most human males undergo reproductive cessation at the same time as their wives. We then present evidence that after ceasing to reproduce, both men and women provide net economic transfers to children and grandchildren. Given this pattern of economic productivity, delays in menopause would produce net economic deficits within families.