Women driven by status, wealth rather than wanting babies, study suggests
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A new study suggests that women are more driven to seek wealth and status than they are to reproduce. The research by Oxford University and Sheffield University says although low fertility may seem to go against traditional ideas about evolutionary success, a woman will delay and reduce her fertility if it brings her opportunities for higher status. The findings are based on interviews with 9,000 women in Mongolia, a country that underwent a sudden transition from a Soviet-style state to mass privatization. While the older cohort who lived under a Communist-style regime were likely to have bigger families if they were wealthier, the younger women experiencing a more capitalist system were more likely to seek their own fortune and a mate with social standing before starting a family, says the paper.
In the research, published in the latest issue of the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the authors describe this as a ‘demographic-economic paradox’. They say an unequal and skills-based society enables women to rise up the social ladder and make money through education (providing gender equality is promoted). As the free market takes hold, women who have children later in life to pursue education get wealthier.
The paper comments that the fact that the wealthy and socially successful have small families may appear to go against the classic theory of evolutionary success as lower fertility results in fewer genetic descendants. However, it suggests this research builds on other studies that have shown that people are primarily driven by status. If status-seeking behaviour translated into reproductive success across evolutionary history, it may have been favoured by natural selection, it explains.
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