Natural selection in utero induced by mass layoffs: the hCG evidence
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Volume 5, Issue 8, pages 796–805, December 2012
How to Cite
Catalano, R., Margerison-Zilko, C., Goldman-Mellor, S., Pearl, M., Anderson, E., Saxton, K., Bruckner, T., Subbaraman, M., Goodman, J., Epstein, M., Currier, R. and Kharrazi, M. (2012), Natural selection in utero induced by mass layoffs: the hCG evidence. Evolutionary Applications, 5: 796–805. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2012.00258.x
- Issue published online: 24 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 4 APR 2012
- Received: 20 December 2011 Accepted: 23 February 2012
- human chorionic gonadotropin;
- mass layoffs;
- selection in utero
Evolutionary theory, when coupled with research from epidemiology, demography, and population endocrinology, suggests that contracting economies affect the fitness and health of human populations via natural selection in utero. We know, for example, that fetal death increases more among males than females when the economy unexpectedly contracts; that unexpected economic contraction predicts low secondary sex ratios; and that males from low sex ratio birth cohorts live, on average, longer than those from high sex ratio cohorts. We also know that low levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (i.e., hCG) measured in the serum of pregnant women predict fetal death. We do not, however, know whether male survivors of conception cohorts subjected to contracting economies exhibit, as theory predicts, higher hCG than those from other cohorts. We show, in 71 monthly conception cohorts including nearly two million California births, that they do. We thereby add to the literature suggesting that the economy, a phenomenon over which we collectively exercise at least some control, affects population health. Our findings imply that the effect arises via natural selection – a mechanism we largely ignore when attempting to explain, or alter, how collective choice affects our biology.