Volume 30 - Article 37 | Pages 1074–1096  

When not to have another baby: An evolutionary approach to low fertility

By Ruth Mace

This article is part of the Special Collection 16 "Theoretical Foundations of the Analysis of Fertility"


Background: In this paper, I explain the theoretical foundations of fertility from the perspective of evolutionary demography and evolutionary anthropology.

Objective: My goal in this paper is to provide examples of how evolutionary demography is generating and testing new hypotheses about human fertility and parental behaviour.

Methods: To illustrate the paradigm of low fertility, I present several evolutionary explanations for reduced fertility, or no fertility at all. The explanations I cite are drawn from studies on child maltreatment, homosexual preference, post-demographic transition low fertility, and late-life low fertility (menopause), as these are phenomena that appear to challenge evolutionary approaches.

Conclusions: I find that the sophisticated tools of behavioural ecology and evolutionary anthropology and demography can do more than simply explain high fertility, and are currently being used to generate and test new hypotheses about fertility, including hypotheses that address the issue of low fertility.

Author's Affiliation

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