Abstracts (first author)
Human evolutionary demography: illustrated with reference to the importance of kin for human reproductive success
Evolutionary demographers working on our own species are fortunate: data on humans abounds, both from the real world (including large-scale national datasets collected by demographers and economists and data on small-scale traditional societies collected by demographers), and from the lab (psychological and medical). We also have access to the substantial amount of research done in the social and medical sciences on how to collect, analyse and think about such data. In this talk I will summarise the benefits of the cross-disciplinary approach of human evolutionary demography, which combines data, methods and insights from the social sciences with the theoretical framework of evolutionary biology. I will do this with particular reference to my research on kin influences on demographic outcomes, including child survival and fertility rates. As a social species, interactions with other individuals are important for human fitness. The ‘cooperative breeding’ and ‘pooled energy budget’ models of human social organisation suggest, in fact, that such interactions are essential for human reproductive success. Here I will present results from a comparative project which is investigating the empirical evidence that kin do matter for women’s fitness across a wide range of human populations, including: the analysis of nationally representative datasets from both high and low income countries; a comparative analysis of datasets from traditional, subsistence societies contributed by anthropologists; and psychological experiments. This evidence demonstrates that the presence of kin is often correlated with higher reproductive success, but also that interactions between kin are not always necessarily cooperative. There is also some evidence for local resource competition between kin, and conflicts of interest between affinal kin (those related by marriage).