Re: Life extension and overpopulation

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 31 Jul 1998 10:34:43 -0700

Duane Hewitt writes:
>> if children are a source of joy to you, then you might buy more of them
>> as you get richer.
>They could be but acknowledging this possibility is a far cry from the
>supporting the hypothesis that there is a selection pressure towards
>having large families. Could you provide some historical examples to back
>up the assertion that rampant breeders tend to swamp out those with less
>prolific tendencies?
>I am familiar with the education-wealth inverse correlation but have not
>encountered any demographic studies that demonstrated that selective
>pressures for numerous offspring operate in humans except in agricultural
>societies or in societies where women are undereducated. It
>could be argued that if given the opportunity humans will tend to have
>fewer offspring and invest more in each individual to enable them a
>greater likelihood to further reproduce. A Quality rather than Quantity
>approach to evolutionary strategy.

I can't cite you demographic studies. But it seems pretty obvious to me that a typical couple in Bologna Italy, where the average kids/couple is .8, would have more long-run progeny if they had eight kids. Yes their immediate factor of ten gain would be mitigated by those kids each having fewer progeny. Going to less expensive schools, having less direct time with parents, having less money for fashionable clothes, etc. would likely make them less successful in finding mates and gaining resources to raise them. But I find it very hard to believe they'd suffer anything like a factor of ten.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627