Supplementary tables and figures. from Evolutionary demography of age at last birth: integrating approaches from human behavioural ecology and cultural evolution

Cultural evolutionary theory and human behavioural ecology offer different, but compatible approaches to understanding human demographic behaviour. For much of their 30 history, these approaches have been deployed in parallel, with few explicit attempts to integrate them empirically. In this paper, we test hypotheses drawn from both approaches to explore how reproductive behaviour responds to cultural changes among Mosuo agriculturalists of China. Specifically, we focus on how age at last birth (ALB) varies in association with temporal shifts in fertility policies, spatial variation and kinship ecologies. We interpret temporal declines in ALB as plausibly consistent with demographic front-loading of reproduction in light of fertility constraints and later ages at last birth in matrilineal populations relative to patrilineal ones as consistent with greater household cooperation for reproductive purposes in the former. We find little evidence suggesting specific transmission pathways for the spread of norms regulating ALB, but emphasize that the rapid pace of change strongly suggests that learning processes were involved in the general decline in ALB over time. The different predictions of models we employ belie their considerable overlap and the potential for a synthetic approach to generate more refined tests of evolutionary hypotheses of demographic behaviour.This article is part of the theme issue ‘Bridging cultural gaps: interdisciplinary studies in human cultural evolution’.