Age at First Reproduction and Economic Change in the Context of Differing Kinship Ecologies
AbstractKinship systems which tend to be based on ecologies of subsistence also assign differential power, privilege and control to human connections that present pathways for manipulation of resource access and transfer. They can be used in this way to channel resource concentrations in women and hence their reproductive value. Thus, strategic female life course trade-offs and their timing are likely to be responsive to changing preferences for qualities in women as economic conditions change. Female life histories are studied in two ethnic groups with differing kinship systems in N.E. India where the competitive market economy is now being felt by most households. Patrilineal Bengali (599 women) practice patrilocal residence with village exogamy and matrilineal Khasi (656 women) follow matrilocal residence with village endogamy, both also normatively preferring three-generation extended households. These households have helpful senior women and significantly greater income. Age at first reproduction (AFR), achieved adult growth (height) and educational level (greater than 6 yrs or less) are examined in reproductive women, ages 16–50. In both groups, women residing normatively are older at AFR and taller than women residing non-normatively. More education is also associated with senior women. Thus, normative residence may place a woman in the best reproductive location, and those with higher reproductive and productive potential are often chosen as households face competitive market conditions. In both groups residing in favorable reproductive locations is associated with a faster pace of fertility among women, as well as lower offspring mortality among Khasi, to compensate for a later start.