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Foraging and Gender


There are commonly two alternative models of subsistence organization. The "economy of scale" model for household formation asserts that decisions about production organization are divided by gender in order to tap the relative skills and abilities (comparative advantages) of men and women in a cooperative effort to provide for their household. Alternatively, gender differences might be the product of differential variance sensitivity: one or both genders are biasing subsistence decisions either toward more variable resource types that may function to ensure efficient advertisement of underlying qualities or toward less variable subsistence activities that increase the certainty of a given reward. Relative to these models, I’ve investigated three specific hypotheses: 1) that women’s foraging decisions are patterned by the tradeoffs between caring for children and producing food; 2) that the different choices men and women make are designed to satisfy the shared goal of optimizing household economic production (in terms of an economy of scale in the acquisition of food for consumption); and 3) that men’s foraging is biased toward activities associated with particular "costs" that ensure the honesty of their social displays.

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