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Fertility Dynamics and Life History Tactics Vary by Socioeconomic Position in a Transitioning Cohort of Postreproductive Chilean Women

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  • Pablo José Varas Enríquez, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, Universidad Austral de Chile
  • ,
  • Luseadra McKerracher
  • Nicolás Montalva Rivera, Universidad Mayor, Millennium Nucleus on Sociomedicine (Sociomed)

Globally, mortality and fertility rates generally fall as resource abundance increases. This pattern represents an evolutionary paradox insofar as resource-rich ecological contexts can support higher numbers of offspring, a component of biological fitness. This paradox has not been resolved, in part because the relationships between fertility, life history strategies, reproductive behavior, and socioeconomic conditions are complex and cultural-historically contingent. We aim to understand how we might make sense of this paradox in the specific context of late-twentieth-century, mid–demographic transition Chile. We use distribution-specific generalized linear models to analyze associations between fertility-related life-history traits—number of offspring, ages at first and last reproduction, average interbirth interval, and average number of live births per reproductive span year—and socioeconomic position (SEP) using data from a cohort of 6,802 Chilean women born between 1961 and 1970. We show that Chilean women of higher SEP have shorter average interbirth intervals, more births per reproductive span year, later age at first reproduction, earlier ages at last reproduction, and, ultimately, fewer children than women of lower SEP. Chilean women of higher SEP consolidate childbearing over a relatively short time span in the middle of their reproductive careers, whereas women of lower SEP tend to reproduce over the entirety of their reproductive lifespans. These patterns may indicate that different SEP groups follow different pathways toward declining fertility during the demographic transition, reflecting different life-history trade-offs in the process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Nature
Pages (from-to)83-114
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Demographic transition, Evolutionary demography, Fertility, Human reproduction, Life history theory

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