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The evolutionary basis of sex variations in the use of natural resources: Human examples

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Abstract

People, unlike other primates, regularly consume foods acquired by others. When people forage for a living, women and men customarily acquire different foods and consume the products of each other's work. This distinctively human “sexual division of labor” has seemed the hallmark of human resource use. If men and women have different economic specialties, marriage creates a social unit that deploys their different capacities to serve family needs. Other distinctively human patterns then seem to arise from this fundamental economic cooperation between the sexes. In recent decades, the use of evolutionary theory to investigate and explain social behavior across the living world has revealed pervasive conflicts of interest between (as well as within) the sexes. Application of these tools to human examples shows the “sexual division of labor” to be the economic aspect of different and conflicting reproductive agendas for women and men. A review of some examples from communities where people hunt and gather for a living illustrates that families are not units of common economic interest. As with other primates, males and females have different reproductive goals and these differences shape sex differences in patterns of resource use.

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Correspondence to Dr. Kristen Hawkes.

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Hawkes, K. The evolutionary basis of sex variations in the use of natural resources: Human examples. Popul Environ 18, 161–173 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02208409

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Keywords

  • Natural Resource
  • Human Resource
  • Recent Decade
  • Social Behavior
  • Evolutionary Theory