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Journal Article

Childlessness drives the sex difference in the association between income and reproductive success of modern Europeans

Barthold, J. A., Myrskylä, M., Jones, O. R.

Evolution and Human Behavior, 33:6, 628-638 (2012)

DOI:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.03.003

Keywords: Europe

Abstract

The association between reproductive success and income in economically developed societies remains a controversial and understudied topic. The commonly made statement that individuals with a higher income have fewer children defies evolutionary explanation. Here we present results from an analyses of the association between lifetime reproductive success (LRS) and income for modern Europeans from 13 countries. We examine the relationships among income, partner income, sex and LRS, and the role of childlessness in driving the relationships. For women, we find a negative association between LRS and income, while for men, we find a flat or slightly positive one. Thesexdifference in the association appears to be driven by income's sex-specific association with childlessness; men with a low income have a relatively high risk of childlessness, while women with a low income have a low risk of childlessness. Consequently, once childless people are excluded from the analysis, LRS is negatively associated with income for both sexes. We argue that the observed LRS–income associations may be an outcome of evolved behavioural predispositions operating in modern environments and conclude that, even though humans fail to maximise LRS at all income levels in modern settings, evolutionary theory can still help to explain sexdifferences in LRS.

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