Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Human Nature, Vol. 15, No. 4 (2004), pp. 319-341.


Copyright © 2004 by Aldine Transaction, New Jersey. Used by permission.


Considerable research on helpers-at-the-nest demonstrates the positive effects of firstborn daughters on a mother’s reproductive success and the survival of her children compared with women who have firstborn sons. This research is largely restricted to agricultural settings. In the present study we ask: “Does ‘daughter first’ improve mothers’ reproductive success in a hunting and gathering context?” Through an analysis of 84 postreproductive women in this population we find that the sex of the first- or second-born child has no effect on a mother’s fertility or the survival of her offspring. We conclude that specific environmental and economic factors underlay the helpers-at-the-nest phenomenon.