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Be Fruitful and Multiply? Moderate Fecundity and Long-Run Reproductive Success

This research presents the first evidence that moderate fecundity maximized long-run reproductive success within the human species. Exploiting an extensive genealogy record for nearly half a million individuals in Quebec during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the study traces the number of descendants of early inhabitants in the subsequent four generations. Using the time interval between the date of marriage and the first live birth as a measure of reproductive capacity, the research establishes that while a higher fecundity is associated with a larger number of children, an intermediate level maximizes long-run reproductive success. The finding further indicates that the optimal level of fecundity was below the population median, suggesting that the forces of natural selection favored individuals with a lower level of fecundity. The research lends credence to the hypothesis that during the Malthusian epoch, natural selection favored individuals with a larger predisposition towards child quality, contributing to the onset of the demographic transition and the evolution of societies from an epoch of stagnation to sustained economic growth.

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File URL: http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Economics/Papers/2013/2013-10_paper.pdf
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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2013-10.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2013-10
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Jason Collins & Boris Baer & Ernst Juerg Weber, 2011. "Economic Growth And Evolution: Parental Preference For Quality And Quantity Of Offspring," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 11-05, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  2. Becker, Sascha & Francesco, Cinirella & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "The Trade-off between Fertility and Education: Evidence from before the Demographic Transition," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2009-17, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  3. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2727, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Bisin, A. & Verdier, T., 1999. "Beyond the Melting Pot : Cultural Transmission, Marriage, and the Evolution of Ethnic and Religious Traits," DELTA Working Papers 1999-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  5. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2011. "The 'Out of Africa' Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 8500, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 150-154, May.
  7. Galor, Oded & Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2012. "Evolution and the growth process: Natural selection of entrepreneurial traits," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 759-780.
  8. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2007. "The Neolithic Revolution and Contemporary Variations in Life Expectancy," Working Papers 2007-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  9. Jorgen W. Weibull, 1997. "Evolutionary Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262731215, June.
  10. Oded_Galor, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth:Unified Growth Theory," Working Papers 2004-15, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  11. Jo Thori Lind & Halvor Mehlum, 2010. "With or Without U? The Appropriate Test for a U-Shaped Relationship," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 72(1), pages 109-118, 02.
  12. Wacziarg, Romain & Spolaore, Enrico, 2006. "The Diffusion of Development," Research Papers 1898r1, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  13. Lagerl F, Nils-Petter, 2007. "Long-Run Trends In Human Body Mass," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(03), pages 367-387, June.
  14. Weber, Ernst Juerg, 1996. " Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(3), pages 357-65, September.
  15. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  16. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
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