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Cross-country relationships between life expectancy, intertemporal choice and age at first birth

Lookup NU author(s): Gillian Pepper



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Humans, like other animals, typically discount the value of delayed rewards relative to those available in the present. From an evolutionary perspective, prioritising immediate rewards is a predictable response to high local mortality rates, as is an acceleration of reproductive scheduling. In a sample of 46 countries, we explored the cross-country relationships between average life expectancy, intertemporal choice, and women's age at first birth. We find that, across countries, lower life expectancy is associated with both a smaller percentage of people willing to wait for a larger but delayed reward, as well as a younger age at first birth. These results, which hold when controlling for region and economic pressures (GDP-per capita), dovetail with findings at the individual level to suggest that life expectancy is an important ecological predictor of both intertemporal and reproductive decision-making.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bulley A, Pepper GV

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Evolution and Human Behavior

Year: 2017

Volume: 38

Issue: 5

Pages: 652-658

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Online publication date: 04/05/2017

Acceptance date: 04/05/2017

Date deposited: 09/05/2017

ISSN (print): 1090-5138

Publisher: Elsevier Inc.


DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.05.002


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