Evolutionary Biology Explains Why Poor People Have Lots of Kids at a Young Age

Why do poor people often have many kids, even though having a lot of children surely makes their tough lives even harder? Don't blame them - blame evolutionary biology:

There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won't just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society's problems are - and it will suggest better solutions.

Evolutionary theory predicts that if you are a mammal growing up in a harsh, unpredictable environment where you are susceptible to disease and might die young, then you should follow a "fast" reproductive strategy - grow up quickly, and have offspring early and close together so you can ensure leaving some viable progeny before you become ill or die. For a range of animal species there is evidence that this does happen. Now research suggests that humans are no exception.

Certainly the theory holds up in comparisons between people in rich and poor countries. Bobbi Low and her colleagues at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor compared information from nations across the world to see if the age at which women have children changes according to their life expectancy (Cross-Cultural Research, vol 42, p 201). "We found that the human data fit the general mammalian pattern," says Low. "The shorter life expectancy was, the earlier women had their first child."


I think you'll find, at least in the UK, poor people have lots of kids at a young age because it nets them a house and benefits without having to work for any of it. :/
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Or they have a lot of kids b/c they don't have a job or can't really afford varying forms of entertainment, so what else are they gonna do but screw and pop out some kids.
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Yeah, this guy has his head up his evolutionary biological butt.

Hey don't blame them or call them stupid! It's just their genes! Because, you know, humans are completely incapable of reasoning and having thought processes if their evolutionary behavior dictates otherwise!!!

I recently moved to Idaho, and am currently working at a grocery store. About 1/3 of the transactions I handle are paid for with EBT cards, and it would make you just damn sick to know how much junk food goes into the cart. Then they use their cash to buy alcohol. Many of these people have 2-3 kids in tow. They keep spitting them out because they know that the government is going to keep paying for them to be morons.
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If you look on a global scale, outside countries with social welfare systems and in different periods of history, it has long been established that women would have fewer children if they had more assurance those children would survive to adulthood. Having more kids to get benefits is a very recent and geographically-limited phenomena.
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Why bother invoking "evolution" when there are already plenty of other, simpler explanations for the same phenomenon? Occam's Razor says you're looking in the wrong place.
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Trying to find an answer in evolutionary theory is like trying to find an answer in geological theory.

Pointless. It's another way to justify your inability to take control of your life, locally or globally. Around the world, poor women have one function - well, two functions, stemming from one act: To provide sex, and to create and care for offspring.
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I'm not saying that all women around the world have the ability to take control of their lives - sometimes they don't have that option.
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for all you "self-controllers," how about doing things like making contraception more readily available? educating people on preventing pregnancy? making birth control affordable?

you're right though. a single mom with 5 kids sure is "living on the dole"! why should i work when i can have 5 kids, get a pittance from the govt., and be stressed out? what a life!

it may be a bit of a stretch to chalk every poor person with 5 kids situation up to evolutionary biology, but it certainly has more clout than you people simply saying these people have no self-control. the insensitivity here is astounding.
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This is such bullspit.

Liberals only invoke social Darwinism when it suits them in making excuses for welfare moms with 6 kids. And as the child of two social workers I can tell you this is not some false stereotype, it is true more often than not.

But when someone tries to place humans back into nature to explain why some people have it harder than other, these same people say "It isn't nature, it is society that has let them down."

Give me a friken break. Stupid people make stupid choices, which leads them to having a bad life.
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Also, in lower-income lives, there aren't many other things to besides get drunk and screw; condoms can be a little spendy if you're active, and protected sex does not feel as good as not, hence: many babies.
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Would it kill you people to stop for ONE minute and consider if there might be SOMETHING to what they found in this study? Anything at all? Instead of immediately jumping to 'these people are stupid/lazy/want welfare/have no self-control, just wanna screw, your first kneejerk reaction?
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The majority of the comments have been anything but knee-jerk reactions, and seem to be cogent, well-thought out points.

Why would you deliberately keep someone from taking charge of their life, by telling them "It's evolution. You are what you are. You can't improve"?

Making birth control more readily available is hardly the answer. Even poor people have the ability to think and make decisions for themselves. They're not animals. Making this an evolutionary argument is preposterous and ultimately degrading - possibly even racist, considering that it's intended to be a global theory.
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This stems from the relatively recent field of evolutionary psychology. By looking at how environmental and reproductive pressures could have shaped human behaviours, psychologists have come up with rational explanations for various human behavioural phenomena, many of which are largely accepted (such as gender differences in sexual attraction, jealousy, parenting, and other behaviours).

The reason why evolutionary psychology is so popular and why researchers would be looking for an evolutionary explanation for this particular phenomenon is because evolutionary psychology can account for a broader range of human behaviour than any other psychological theory of human motivation. It is so far the best universal theory of what motivates human (and animal) behaviour that we have so far. As a result, researchers have gone rushing into all sorts of behavioural phenomenon, particularly those relating to reproduction looking for an evolutionary explanation.

Clearly in this particular instance (as in most), the phenomenon is more complicated than what these evolutionary biologists are suggesting. Other factors such as education, cultural values, and social pressures have been forgotten (although for all I know they covered all these limitations in their paper). However one cannot completely exclude our evolutionary roots from what motivates our behaviour. If these provide just one facet of an explanation for this particular phenomenon, perhaps this is it. But more likely in time improved theories will be offered.

@Briannana, Ted, @ Krikkit
Keep in mind that evolutionary psychology does not imply that we are mindless slaves to our evolutionary past, rather it attempts to explain why certain behaviours would occur with such frequency universally across different cultures as a result of our evolutionary past and the biological differences between the genders. Evolutionary psychology is explanatory of the mass, not prescriptive of the individual. There is always going to be plenty of variation in how our evolutionary past affects each of us, but there is no denying that it remains an influence.

How can it be racist if it is supposed to be a universal theory describing behaviours that occur across cultures independent of race?

Pulling out is pretty ineffective as far as birth control goes. Not putting in to begin with unless you have a condom would be preferable.
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Some psychiatrist somewhere has his hand in this bullshit article.

You can tell when a psychiatrist has a part in something. It always has something to do with the drugging, suppression, or oppression of a people or class of people.
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Gryt-this is more an example of naming evolution for what acculteration(sic) does-acculteration (sic) is essentially all the subtle and not so subtle social forces at work on a particular concern-in this case, making babies amongst the poor. It's also a bit blame heavy.

And hey, I can nail it for you in one, if you like: so you say it's an evolutionary thing? Okay, show me the genes.
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There is such a thing as prec--... so no, the pullout method although better than nothing, still leaves a chance of some sperm getting in there.
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"Even poor people have the ability to think and make decisions for themselves. They're not animals."


We are all subject to the stressors in the environment as well as the chemical makeup of our genes. Yes, there is a large allowance for "personal choice," but if you think a person scrabbling for just enough food to stay alive has much if any choice about anything in their life, then you have never been truly hungry, my friend.
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I believe you know what I mean by my statement.

When I say that poor people are not animals, I mean to say that they are human beings, and should be treated as such. Give them the dignity to make choices.

You aptly demonstrate the superior attitude that I was criticizing, i.e., the notion that poor people are incapable of making conscious decisions because it's somehow part of their nature. This is an overtly racist assertion, since many of the world's poor are in third world countries, and are non-white.

To say that this is evolutionary and not socio-economic is implying that these non-white people are inherently flawed or at least operating on a lower level of humanity than others.

My first comment addressed how it is often a matter of women having no choice due to their status. It's society, not evolution. I'm not debating the existence of evolution; I'm just saying this can't be argued on the same scale as evolution.
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@ Ted
I don't believe Kryptonian's comment was racist. Even if it were, it certainly wasn't overtly so. An overtly racist comment would be straight up saying something about non-white people being "inherently flawed". It seems rather he/she was saying that anyone in that situation might make similar choices, regardless of race.
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