Fertility in anthropological populations

J. W. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The fertility of preindustrial societies has long been of interest to biological anthropologists, archaeologists, and ethnologists. Until recently, however, anthropological research on this topic has been conducted in almost complete isolation from relevant technical advances in demography and reproductive biology. In this review I draw upon statistical demography and, to a lesser extent, reproductive endocrinology to formulate a coherent strategy for investigating fertility and reproduction in anthropological populations. In the first section, I discuss the demographic concept of "natural fertility' and explore its relevance to anthropological research. In the second section, I summarize what appear to be the most important empirical generalizations about fertility variation in preindustrial societies. Sections 3-5 outline a general strategy for studying such variation. In the fifth and sixth sections I outline an alternative approach and describe how it has helped explain fertility variation within and among preindustrial societies. In the final section of the review, I briefly discuss some important unanswered questions that can usefully be addressed with the analytical framework I advocate. -from Author

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-242
Number of pages32
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Anthropology


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