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Human behavioral ecology (HBE) applies the principles of evolutionary theory and optimisation to the study of human behavioural and cultural diversity. Among other things, HBE attempts to explain variation in behaviour as adaptive solutions to the competing life-history demands of growth, development, reproduction, parental care, and mate acquisition. This book is a comprehensive introduction to the theoretical orientation and specific findings of HBE. It consolidates the insights of evolution and human behaviour into a single volume that reflects the current state and future of the field. It brings together leading scholars from across the evolutionary social sciences to provide a comprehensive and thought-provoking review of the state of the topic. Throughout, the authors explain the latest developments in theory and highlight critical debates in the literature, while also engaging readers with ethnographic insights and field-based studies that remain at the core of human behavioral ecology.
Increased access to defensible material wealth is hypothesised to escalate inequality. Market integration, which creates novel opportunities in cash economies, provides a means of testing this hypothesis. Using demographic data collected from 505 households among the matrilineal and patrilineal Mosuo in 2017, we test whether market integration is associated with increased material wealth, whether increased material wealth is associated with wealth inequality, and whether being in a matrilineal vs. patrilineal kinship system alters the relationship between wealth and inequality. We find evidence that market integration, measured as distance to the nearest source of tourism and primary source of household income, is associated with increased household income and ‘modern’ asset value. Both village-level market integration and mean asset value were associated negatively, rather than positively, with inequality, contrary to predictions. Finally, income, modern wealth and inequality were higher in matrilineal communities that were located closer to the centre of tourism and where tourism has long provided a relatively stable source of income. However, we also observed exacerbated inequality with increasing farm animal value in patriliny. We conclude that the forces affecting wealth and inequality depend on local context and that the importance of local institutions is obscured by aggregate statistics drawn from modern nation states.
Evolutionary treatments of women's work and the sexual division of labour derive from sexual selection theory and focus on an observed cross-cultural trend: tasks performed by women tend to be more compatible with childcare and produce less economic risk than tasks performed by men. Evolutionary models emphasize biological sex differences and opportunity costs to understand this pattern of behaviour, yet deviations remain poorly understood. We examine variation in women's work among Shodagor fisher–traders in Bangladesh with the goal of explaining such deviations related to women's work. First, we demonstrate that women's trading produces higher variance returns than men's work – a pattern not previously quantified. Next, we test predictions from the economy of scale model to understand the socioecological circumstances associated with trading. We suggest that relaxing model assumptions around biological constraints may elucidate key circumstances under which members of one gender should systematically engage in work that is incompatible with childcare and/or produces higher levels of economic risk. Results indicate that biological sex differences are insufficient to explain gendered patterns of behaviour but removal of childcare constraints and comparative advantages related to opportunity costs can explain adherence to and deviation from trends in women's work and the division of labour.
Recent work in human behavioural ecology has suggested that analyses focusing on early childhood may underestimate the importance of paternal investment to child outcomes since such investment may not become crucial until adolescence or beyond. This may be especially important in societies with a heritable component to status, as later investment by fathers may be more strongly related to a child's adult status than early forms of parental investment that affect child survival and child health. In such circumstances, the death or absence of a father may have profoundly negative effects on the adult outcomes of his children that cannot be easily compensated for by the investment of mothers or other relatives. This proposition is tested using a multigenerational dataset from Bangalore, India, containing information on paternal mortality as well as several child outcomes dependent on parental investment during adolescence and young adulthood. The paper examines the effects of paternal death, and the timing of paternal death, on a child's education, adult income, age at marriage and the amount spent on his or her marriage, along with similar characteristics of spouses. Results indicate that a father's death has a negative impact on child outcomes, and that, in contrast to some findings in the literature on father absence, the effects of paternal death are strongest for children who lose their father in late childhood or adolescence.