What explains differences in men's and women's production? Determinants of gendered foraging inequalities among Martu

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Abstract

Researchers commonly use long-term average production inequalities to characterize cross-cultural patterns in foraging divisions of labor, but little is known about how the strategies of individuals shape such inequalities. Here, we explore the factors that lead to daily variation in how much men produce relative to women among Martu, contemporary foragers of the Western Desert of Australia. We analyze variation in foraging decisions on temporary foraging camps and find that the percentage of total camp production provided by each gender varies primarily as a function of men's average bout successes with large, mobile prey. When men target large prey, either their success leads to a large proportional contribution to the daily harvest, or their failure results in no contribution. When both men and women target small reliable prey, production inequalities by gender are minimized. These results suggest that production inequalities among Martu emerge from stochastic variation in men's foraging success on large prey measured against the backdrop of women's consistent production of small, low-variance resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-129
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Nature
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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