We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Jeremy Kendal

Kendal, J.R., Ihara, Y. & Feldman, M.W. (2005). Cultural niche construction with application to fertility control: a model of education and social transmission of contraceptive use. Morrison Institute Working Papers 102, 41.

Author(s) from Durham


The evolution of a cultural trait may be affected by niche construction, or changes in the selective environment of that trait due to the inheritance of other cultural traits that make up a cultural background. This study investigates the evolution of a cultural trait, such as the use of contraception, that is both vertically and horizontally transmitted within a homogeneous social network. Individuals conform to the norm, and adopters of the trait have fewer progeny than others. The study examines the effects of a vertically transmitted aspect of the cultural background, such as the preference for high or low levels of education, on the evolution of contraceptive use. This provides an example of cultural niche construction that facilitates the spread of traits with low Darwinian fitness while providing an environment that counteracts conformity to norms. Thus niche construction can facilitate the ‘demographic transition’, whereby a reduction in fertility follows a reduction in mortality.