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Natural selection on male wealth in humans

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle, Thomas Pollet



Although genomic studies suggest that natural selection in humans is ongoing, the strength of selection acting on particular characteristics in human populations has rarely been measured. Positive selection on male wealth appears to be a recurrent feature of human agrarian and pastoralist societies, and there is some evidence of it in industrial populations, too. Here we investigate the strength of selection on male wealth, first in contemporary Britain using data from the National Child Development Study and then across seven other varied human societies. The British data show positive selection on male income driven by increased childlessness among lowÔÇÉincome men but a negative association between personal income and reproductive success for women. Across cultures, selection gradients for male wealth are weakest in industrial countries and strongest in subsistence societies with extensive polygyny. Even the weakest selection gradients observed for male wealth in humans are as strong as or stronger than selection gradients reported from field studies of other species. Thus, selection on male wealth in contemporary humans appears to be ubiquitous and substantial in strength.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D, Pollet TV

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: American Naturalist

Year: 2008

Volume: 172

Issue: 5

Pages: 658-666

Date deposited: 30/01/2009

ISSN (print): 0003-0147

ISSN (electronic): 1537-5323

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


DOI: 10.1086/591690


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