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The battle of the sexes over the distribution of male surplus


  • Myrna Wooders

    () (Department of Economics, University of Warwick)

  • Hugo van den Berg

    () (Department of Mathematics, University of Warwick)


Female primates carry and nurse the fetus, and thus have the first responsibility for rearing the offspring. Assuming males are at least equally adept at obtaining food, males might either share surplus food with females or consume the food themselves. The distribution of this surplus is the subject of a battle of the sexes. If females succeed in obtaining a large share of the surplus, then there is little size dimorphism between males and females otherwise males might use the surplus themselves to become larger and stronger, and to engage in sexual competition with other males. Besides competing with males, females may compete with each other. Dependency may coincide with sexual competitiveness (sexiness). This paper introduces these ideas in a game theoretic setting and derives a simple bound, called the alpha male condition, on the male 'sexiness'' required for a nonsupportive strategy to be worthwhile.

Suggested Citation

  • Myrna Wooders & Hugo van den Berg, 2001. "The battle of the sexes over the distribution of male surplus," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 3(17), pages 1-9.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebl:ecbull:eb-01c70011

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
    2. Aloysius Siow, 1998. "Differential Fecundity, Markets, and Gender Roles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 334-354, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wooders, Myrna & Berg, Hugo van den, 2001. "Female competition, evolution, and the battle of the sexes," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 620, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    2. Evelyn Korn, 2008. "Zerstört der Sozialstaat die Familie?," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 9(2), pages 156-172, May.

    More about this item


    battle of the sexes;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination


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