Call for abstracts

We are pleased to invite you to submit abstracts for talks at the Cooperation and Conflict in the Family Conference to be held from 2 to 5 February 2014. Submission is now open and closes on Friday 30 August 2013. Please submit your abstract by going to the abstract submission page.

Conference structure

The majority of the conference will be dedicated to submitted talks. Submitted talks will be set around key events, which includes public lectures on the evenings of Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 February by Professor Paul Seabright and Professor Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, and regular plenary talks by our Invited Speakers during the day.

We intend to run no more than two parallel sessions of submitted talks. Each session will follow a theme, and we will ensure a mix of disciplines within each session. Speakers will be provided 15 minutes during which to present, plus five minutes for questions and changeover.

Abstract submission

Submitted talks will be chosen on the basis of abstracts. Talks can address any topic related to the theme of the conference, including: conflict in mating, sexual strategies, mating markets, fertility decisions, conflicts over child-rearing or parental investment, the demographic transition, cooperation and conflict over household decisions, family labour supply, the history of human mating systems, the history of sexual conflict, and the evolution or economics of family structures.

Abstracts should have a descriptive title (no more than 140 characters) and contain no more than 300 words of text. We also invite you to select which disciplines your work best represents, and to nominate up to four key words.

On submission of the abstract, you will receive a confirmation email containing your submission details. We will inform submitters of acceptance of the talk proposal in mid-September. Final acceptance of the talk is conditional on the presenter registering to attend the conference.

Please submit your abstract by going to the abstract submission page.

US conservatives surprised that the number of ‘Breadwinner Moms’ has risen since 1960

By Rob Brooks

If you spend any time, as I do, in that strange and confusing place we call “The Internet” or that only marginally less strange and confusing place called the USA, you might have noticed an unholy row last week about “Breadwinner Moms”. The catalyst was a Pew Research Center report showing that mothers now act as the sole or primary provider in 40% of American households with children. This constitutes a dramatic rise since 1960 when less than 11% of families had female breadwinners.

The rise in single mothers and married mothers who are the primary provider since 1960 in the USA. Pew Research Center


Its not as though anything else has happened in the last 53 years. Like widespread adoption of the contraceptive pill. Or quantum improvements in other contraceptive methods and reproductive health. Or feminism’s second and subsequent waves.

The Pew Center report actually makes a very interesting read. Two distinct categories of “breadwinner moms” have grown: single mothers who are mostly poor (median household income of US$23,000 a year), and married mothers who earn more than their husbands (together bringing in a median of US$80,000).

Predictably, the report has been interpreted along such different lines that one could be forgiven for believing progressives and conservatives were reading quite different documents.

Over at This View of Life, my colleague Jason Collins (author of the wonderful Evolving Economics blog) and I just published an analysis of the conservative reaction, typified by this clip from Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox Business:

All-male panel on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight discusses “nothing less than the demise of The American Family”.

As Jason put it, this clip confirms that political satire is obsolete.

As does this grilling that Dobbs and one of his guests, Erick Erickson, received from Dobbs’ Fox Business colleague Megyn Kelly on America Live:

Megyn Kelly takes Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson to takes about their earlier comments.

The zeal with which conservatives – normally so willing to pooh-pooh science – attached themselves to this report illustrates the deep ideological divisions that emerge out of our preconceived views of family life. Jason and I are in the throes of organising the Cooperation and Conflict in the Family Conference which will bring leading economists, evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists to Sydney next February to explore how evolution and economics can combine to help us better understand the difficult conflicts of interest that sit at the heart of family life.

As our article at This View of Life suggests, there is far more to this report and to the fascinating research emerging in this area than any partisan pseudodebate can convey. There is much to celebrate about the gains women have made in society and in workplaces since 1960.

And yet these gains don’t come without seismically remodelling sex, family life and societies. Mostly for the better, but not entirely without cost.

I’d welcome Comments or Tweets (@Brooks_Rob) about other areas of life that have – perhaps unexpectedly – been impacted by changes in contraception, reproductive control and the relative incomes earned by women and men.

Rob Brooks does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

First announcement

The Cooperation and Conflict in the Family conference will be held at UNSW in Sydney, Australia from February 2-5 2014.

We will bring together leading economic and evolutionary researchers to explore the nature of conflict and cooperation between the sexes in the areas of marriage, mating and fertility.

The conference provides an opportunity for researchers to discuss the economic and evolutionary biology approaches to these issues, explore common ground and identify collaborative opportunities. Areas of interest include:

  • Conflict in mating: How does conflict between the reproductive interests of men and women affect mating markets and sexual strategies?
  • Fertility: How is the fertility decision made in marriage? What are the trade-offs between quality and quantity of children? What factors are behind the demographic transition and low fertility of the modern era?
  • Investment: How do the competing interests of men and women affect parenting behaviour, work and household decisions?


Economics and evolutionary biology have a rich history of analysis of cooperation and conflict in the family. Evolutionary biology sources the beginnings of this analysis to the work of Darwin in the mid to late 19thcentury, while the economic study of the family has origins that are more recent, dating to the late 1950s. Since then, however, a strong tradition has emerged of the application of the economic approach to fertility, marriage, mating markets and investment in the quality and quantity of children.

While the ground being explored is common, the economic and evolutionary approaches are rarely reconciled. Particularly, the concepts of fitness and utility, which lie at the heart of evolutionary biology and economics, have not been unified across the disciplines. Fitness provides a basis for the emergence of traits and preferences, while in an economic utility framework they are assumed.

Cooperation and conflict in the family provides a fertile area to build a bridge between these concepts. In recent decades, understanding of family dynamics has been revolutionised by parallel insights in evolution (sexual conflict theory) and economics that the interests of men and women can diverge, altering the balance between cooperation and conflict within the family.

In February 2014, Sydney will play host to an unprecedented gathering of economic and evolutionary thinkers who will explore the potential for a closer synthesis between evolution and economics in order to address the compelling mysteries that surround sex and reproduction.


We hope you will join us in beautiful Sydney for an exciting meeting of disciplines.

Conference Organisers

Jason Collins & Rob Brooks