Past projects

Family structure, rural livelihoods and child health in Tanzania

David Lawson, ex-member of EDG, now Assistant Professor, UC Santa Barbara

Focusing primarily on the role of alternative family structures (e.g. polygynous vs. monogamous marriage, family size) and rural livelihoods (e.g. farming vs. pastoralism), this research considers the household and community determinants of food insecurity and child health across a large and ethnically diverse sample of villages in northern Tanzania. The study population includes a high percentage of Maasai pastoralists who have particularly poor child health outcomes compared to neighboring ethnic groups. David also works with SFTZ on the production of resources, profiling and archiving their data, and on project evaluations relating to child health.

This project ran between 2013-16, was funded by the UK Medical Research Council, and was in collaboration with Savannas Forever Tanzania (SFTZ), an NGO specializing in the evaluation of rural development projects in Tanzania.

Understanding (mal)adaptive fertility

Gert Stulp, ex-member of EDG, now Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Groningen

Within both the social and natural sciences, there is a pervasive assumption that evolutionary considerations are irrelevant to understanding fertility in modern industrialised populations, and that humans behave maladaptively, failing to maximise their Darwinian fitness. This assumption may be premature and deserves re-evaluation. The aim of this research, therefore, is to assess the extent to which individual fertility decisions in contemporary populations can be considered (mal)adaptive. Using a behavioural ecological framework, several studies will be pursued that attempt to identify both those aspects of our behaviour that continue to be adaptive and those that show a significant deviation from evolutionary expectations, and why. Each study will use longitudinal, individual-level data, using advanced statistical techniques, overcoming shortcomings of previous work. The time is ripe for such a re-evaluation of fertility; despite a wealth of available research, our understanding of individual fertility decisions remains limited and lacks predictive power. This research may enhance our understanding of fertility-decision, thereby potentially increasing our ability to accurately predict future changes in fertility to the benefit of economic and societal decision-making, as well as demonstrating the value of an explicitly evolutionary approach to the behaviour of modern humans.

This project ran between 2014-16, and was funded by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).