Re: Genes say: When Rich, have Fewer Kids

Jay Reynolds Freeman (
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 10:59:58 -0800

One thing I recall from my anthropology classes, is that in
pre-industrial cultures whose primary food source is cultivation of
rice in paddies -- which includes a lot of east and southeast Asia, as
well as nearby islands -- more children are highly desirable, because
even an eight-year-old is a net economic *benefit* to the family: Rice
production depends on dexterity rather than on physical strength, and
a child of eight is efficient enough in the paddies to produce more
than he or she eats. That information was alleged to go a long way to
explaining high population growth in that part of the world; if so, it
is an interesting variant on the "commons" problem, because clearly
(in pre-industrial cultures, at any rate), land is also a limiting
resource on food production.

Another interesting correlate of family values with economy
occurred in areas where most agricultural production involved plows
drawn by draft animals. Operating such a plow is back-breaking labor,
requiring great physical strength. Perhaps consequently, cultures
heavily dependent on such production tend to value sons much more than
daughters, even to the extent of either killing unwanted daughters, or
allowing them to die from malnutrition or mistreatment.

I wonder whether any consequences of these behaviors have made it
into the genetic pool.

-- Jay Freeman, First Extropian Squirrel