While it is commonly assumed that farmers have higher, and foragers lower, fertility compared to populations practicing other forms of subsistence, robust supportive evidence is lacking. We tested whether subsistence activities—incorporating market integration—are associated with fertility in 10,250 women from 27 small-scale societies and found considerable variation in fertility. This variation did not align with group-level subsistence typologies. Societies labeled as “farmers” did not have higher fertility than others, while “foragers” did not have lower fertility. However, at the individual level, we found strong evidence that fertility was positively associated with farming and moderate evidence of a negative relationship between foraging and fertility. Markers of market integration were strongly negatively correlated with fertility. Despite strong cross-cultural evidence, these relationships were not consistent in all populations, highlighting the importance of the socioecological context, which likely influences the diverse mechanisms driving the relationship between fertility and subsistence.

Publié dans

PNAS, vol. 121, n° 9, février 2024