Socioeconomic status determines sex-dependent survival of human offspring

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES In polygynous societies, rich men have many offspring through the marriage of multiple wives. Evolutionary, rich households would therefore benefit more from sons, and according to the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, parents invest more in offspring of the sex that has the best reproductive prospects. We determined the sex differences in number of offspring, sex ratio of offspring, offspring survival and offspring weight in rich and poor households in a polygynous population. METHODOLOGY We studied a population of 28 994 individuals in Northern Ghana during an 8-year prospective follow-up. We determined the fertility rate for both men and women, sex ratio of 3511 newborn offspring and offspring survival in 16 632 offspring up to reproductive age (≤18 years). Also, we collected 9842 weight measurements of 1470 offspring up to the age of 3 years from growth charts of local clinics. RESULTS In rich households, men have a lifetime number of 6.0 offspring, while for women this was 3.1. In line with evolutionary predictions, the male:female sex ratio was higher in rich households (0.52; poor households 0.49), sons had lower mortality in rich households (hazard ratio male versus female 1.06, P = 0.64; poor households: hazard ratio male versus female 1.46, P = 0.01) and sons also had higher weights in rich households (P = 0.008). CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS In rich households, men have higher reproductive prospects in this polygynous society and, in line with Trivers-Willard, we registered more sons in rich households, sons had lower mortality and higher weights, maximizing the reproductive output in this society.

DOI: 10.1093/emph/eot002

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@inproceedings{Bodegom2013SocioeconomicSD, title={Socioeconomic status determines sex-dependent survival of human offspring}, author={David van Bodegom and Maarten Pieter Rozing and Linda M. May and Hans J. Meij and Fleur Thom{\'e}se and Bas J Zwaan and Rudi G. J. Westendorp}, booktitle={Evolution, medicine, and public health}, year={2013} }