Mom Loves Me More - Why Violence and not Marriage Proliferate in Harlem

In my post titled Gay Marriage ... Not Again, I proclaimed that I don't care if a guy wants to marry a trash can. My brother responded that he did, and he cited the low marriage rates in Harlem as one of the causes of violence and poverty. Reading my new, intriguing book on evolutionary psychology, maybe there is another answer: that my mom loves me more. Let me explain.

If you believe in evolution, it's quite natural that evolution would affect more than size, height, or physical structure, but also innate behavior as well. All kinds of interesting hypotheses follow, on monogomy, love, friendship, and family as a means to advantageous strategies. Maybe this could explain Harlem.

In most species where the female bears the investment of childbearing, males can have many more children. As a result, females are more selective in choosing a mate and competition among males can be quite fierce. The result of this, and that males are evaluated for their ability to provide (money, status) whereas women are valued more for fitness (beauty), is that it is easier for women to marry up (or mate up) than men. A poor but beautiful woman is more likely to find a rich husband, than a poor, beautiful man finding a rich wife.

Now this logic has implications. If a poor mother had several children, then she should favor her daughters rather than her sons, because they are more likely to mate upwards. In short, the daughters have a better chance at proliferating their genes. The reverse is true of affluent mothers who should favor their sons. Wow, right? Is there any evidence?

Well Florida pack rat mothers when deprived of food (in poverty) will wean off their sons while continuing to feed their daughters. In many species, the birth rates are even affected such that impoverished mothers are more likely to produce daughters. But that's rats. What about humans? Every mother would resist this notion vehemently.

It turns out that impoverished mothers breast feed more than half of their daughters but less than half their sons. In affluent mothers, it is quite reversed: 90% of affluent sons, while only 60% of daughters. My jaw began to drop ...

Of course having more children causes greater competition. So if you were to protect a child by waiting to have another, you would expect a poor woman to wait longer after a daughter to protect her and affluent woman to wait longer after a son. That turns out to be true too: 4.3 years after a daughter vs. 3.5 after a son in poor families, and the opposite of 3.2 after a daughter and 3.5 years after a son in affluent mothers. The evidence is compelling.

So looking back at Harlem, maybe the poverty means that males were less cared for than females because of poverty. They were fed less, cared for less, and left to fend for themselves. Consequently, as impoverished males, their best mating strategy for gene proliferation is having many relationships since they have less to offer in male parental investment. Hence less marriage. And as it comes to violence, most violence in species is about establishing status as it relates to mating. So evolutionary psychology explains Harlem, the marriage rates, the polygamy, the violence.

And coming from a relatively affluent family, it also implies that mom more likely loved me more. Sorry sis. At least mom denies it ...

BTW, this book is a must read. Every 10 page section drops my jaw or challenges the most important ideas at their core. Simply, fascinating.