Fertility and subsistence: a cross-cultural analysis

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Description: The debate about the relationship between fertility and subsistence is an old one, and an example of a classic anthropological investigation into the relationship between food production, behaviour and demography. Anthropological and archaeological theory present hunter-gatherer fertility as ‘relatively low’ compared to other subsistence types. However, the evidence (based on cross-cultural averages) is mixed, suggesting a wide range of heterogeneity in fertility regardless of subsistence type. Despite inconsistent results the literature on the demography of small-scale societies still tends to assume hunter-gatherers have lower fertility compared to other populations. This may well be true, but we lack the evidence to support this statement due to theoretical and methodological shortcomings in previous research. This proposed research project seeks to re-open this classic question by investigating the relationship between fertility and subsistence at the individual level from a wide range of small-scale populations to overcome previous limitations.

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