A Bioeconomic Approach to Marriage and the Sexual Division of Labor

Human Nature 20 (2):151-183 (2009)
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Abstract

Children may be viewed as public goods whereby both parents receive equal genetic benefits yet one parent often invests more heavily than the other. We introduce a microeconomic framework for understanding household investment decisions to address questions concerning conflicts of interest over types and amount of work effort among married men and women. Although gains and costs of marriage may not be spread equally among marriage partners, marriage is still a favorable, efficient outcome under a wide range of conditions. This bioeconomic framework subsumes both cooperative and conflictive views on the sexual division of labor. We test hypotheses concerning marriage markets, assortative mating, and men’s labor motivations among Tsimane forager-horticulturalists of Bolivia and find that: (1) men and women both value work effort in marital partners, (2) marital labor contributions are complementary, (3) work effort is correlated between spouses, (4) total production is correlated with total reproduction, and (5) better hunters have higher fitness gains within marital unions

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