The Mating System of Foragers in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample
Among foragers, men's foods are often shared widely outside the household, undercutting variation in the benefit their wives and children receive. This means polygyny may not be due to variation in household provisioning. Some have even suggested that bonds in general, whether polygynous or monogamous, may have less to do with male provisioning than male-male contest competition. However, an analysis of foragers in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample reveals that male provisioning does affect the mating system. Societies with higher male contribution to subsistence are more monogamous. The author argues that women value male provisioning less where males bring in less food, which results in greater polygyny. Where it is difficult for women to acquire food, they value male provisioning more, forcing males to compete via food acquisition. Food sharing prevents the polygyny threshold from being reached but does not completely erase the benefit of pair bonding with a good forager.