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Selection in utero contributes to the male longevity deficit


  • Catalano, Ralph


The literature offering evolutionary explanations of the male longevity deficit does not address temporal variation in the deficit. This circumstance appears attributable to the fact that natural selection intuitively explains the deficit's pervasive and persistent nature, while social processes more parsimoniously explain its temporal variability. I offer consilience of these perspectives by speculating that selection in utero, a mechanism both conserved by natural selection and affected by social processes, could induce deviations around trend in the male longevity deficit. I describe the mechanism and offer an empirical test of its possible effect among Swedes - a population with the longest continuous record of sex-specific longevity in annual birth cohorts. I replicate the test with data from England and Wales. Results support the hypothesis that selection in utero against less fit males may explain part of the difference in longevity between males and females in modern populations.

Suggested Citation

  • Catalano, Ralph, 2011. "Selection in utero contributes to the male longevity deficit," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(6), pages 999-1003, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:6:p:999-1003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Courtenay, Will H., 2000. "Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men's well-being: a theory of gender and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(10), pages 1385-1401, May.
    2. Klasen, Stephan, 1994. ""Missing women" reconsidered," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(7), pages 1061-1071, July.
    3. Waldron, Ingrid, 1983. "Sex differences in human mortality: The role of genetic factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 321-333, January.
    4. Markus Jokela & Anna Rotkirch & Ian J. Rickard & Jenni Pettay & Virpi Lummaa, 2010. "Serial monogamy increases reproductive success in men but not in women," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 21(5), pages 906-912.
    5. Nobles, Jenna & Brown, Ryan & Catalano, Ralph, 2010. "National independence, women's political participation, and life expectancy in Norway," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(9), pages 1350-1357, May.
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