Human Nature

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Sex Differences in the Association of Family and Personal Income and Wealth with Fertility in the United States

  • Rosemary L. HopcroftEmail author


Evolutionary theory predicts that social status and fertility will be positively related. It also predicts that the relationship between status and fertility will differ for men and women. This is particularly likely in modern societies given evidence that females face greater trade-offs between status and resource acquisition and fertility than males. This paper tests these hypotheses using newly released data from the 2014 wave of the Survey of Income and Program Participation by the US Census, which has the first complete measures of fertility and number of childbearing partners for a large, representative, national probability sample of men and women and also contains comprehensive measures of economic status as measured by personal and family resources, including income from all sources and all assets. Multivariate analyses show that personal income is positively associated with total fertility and number of childbearing unions for men only. For men, personal net worth is positively associated with number of childbearing unions; it is also positively associated with fertility for married men with a spouse present. These findings support evolutionary predictions of a positive relationship between status, access to mates, and reproductive success for males. Whereas personal income and personal net worth are negatively associated with total fertility and number of childbearing unions for women, family income (net of personal income) is positively associated with total fertility for women. For married men living with a spouse, family income (net of personal income) is negatively associated with total fertility. These findings are consistent with evolutionary theory given the existence of greater trade-offs between production and reproduction for women in an advanced industrial society. For women and men, family net worth (net of personal net worth) is negatively associated with number of childbearing unions and fertility. Implications are discussed.


Wealth Income Fertility SIPP Status Sex differences 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

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