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Social and Reproductive Success in the United States: The Roles of Income, Education and Cognition

Gerhard Meisenberg


Although the relationship between social dominance status and reproductive success is universally positive in those species in which the relationship has been studied, in human societies today the relationship is more often negative. The present study uses detailed information from the General Social Survey in the United States to address this apparent paradox. Results show that education and intelligence had negative relationships with number of children across birth cohorts during most or all of the 20th century. Family income has only minor effects, especially when marital fertility rather than total cohort fertility is considered. The results do not support sociobiological predictions that modern humans turn material resources into reproductive success. Religion, ideology and income are identified as factors that influence the relationship between intelligence and fertility. Results are discussed in the broader context of emerging knowledge in demographics and molecular genetics, especially with respect to the direction of biological and cultural evolution in the modern United States and in modern societies more generally.

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