Seminar

RHI Seminar: Sarah Carmichael (Utrecht University)

Investing in offspring: the quantity-quality tradeoff from an interdisciplinary perspective

Organisator Rural and Environmental History
Datum

di 14 april 2015 12:45 tot 14:15

Locatie Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
201
6706 KN Wageningen
0317-483639
Zaal/kamer C75

Investing in offspring: the quantity-quality tradeoff from an interdisciplinary perspective

Sarah Carmichael, Auke Rijpma and Charlotte Störmer

Abstract

This research note brings together two different perspectives on parental investments in offspring to highlight what the discipline of economics/economic history might gain from looking to the evolutionary biological literature. We start by exploring how the Quantity-Quality Tradeoff (the main framework for looking at parental investments to be found in economics) has been construed by economists and what the empirical findings are for it in the literature. While recent economic models manage to draw out the implications for the societal development (economic growth, gender equality), we also see that generally in this field quality is narrowly defined as education or human capital formation.

In a second step we have closer look at the Q-Q trade-off in evolutionary biology (i.e. Life History Theory): here the trade-off between offspring quantity and quality is discussed in the context of resources (both physiological and economic) and environmental conditions. It is argued, that in unstable environments with high mortality risk parents should invest in offspring quantity to increase their reproductive success.

We conclude that the combination of demographic, biological and economic parameters used in evolutionary theories on the QQT might broaden the framework of explanations for the link between economic developments and fertility decisions.

More information about Sarah Carmichael can be found here.