Probably not what you’re expecting from the title: this is about the impact of sexual equality on the living arrangements of hunter gather people.

Basically, when both husbands and wives have equal say in which kin-group the family lives in, kin-groups tend to have a higher percentage of unrelated individuals (i.e. people end up living with friends, not family). Conversely, when only one partner has a say (the article implies both male and female dominance is modeled, but only patriarchal results seem to have been actively studied), kin-groups tend to end up with very few non-relatives.

The argument is that sexual equality fulled the development of human “hypercooperation”, i.e. our propensity to form cooperative social structures with other humans (and non-humans!) regardless of whether or not we’re related to them. It’s something that’s so ingrained in us we mostly don’t even think about it; how many non-family versus family members do you cooperate with every day, whether it’s something as “simple” as buying a coffee1 or as complex as working in a company or attending a school?

All that? That came from somewhere; chimpanzee troops, for comparison, are much, much more related than your average collection of humans from any one apartment building, office, or sports team. (And, arguably, less cooperative; there’s a reason humans play organised sports and build houses while chimps don’t, and it’s not just about brain size.)

It’s worth noting that the “sexual equality equals hypercooperation” isn’t a definitive answer here. But it is a potential piece of a very fascinating puzzle.

  1. Which, when you start to unpack it, actually isn’t a simple thing at all. To buy that coffee, various groups of people had to cooperate to grow the beans, harvest the beans, prepare the beans, package the beans, ship the beans, repackage the beans, deliver the beans, roast the beans, grind the beans, and brew the beans. Not to mention cooperate to maintain the shop in which the beans are sold, including everything from producing and procuring coffee cups to maintaining the financial system that facilitates monetary commerce. In other words, when you unpack it down to its roots, no human interaction is simple or atomized. See also Exhibit A in why I have no time for the “self-reliance” delusions of survivalist types. When the zombie apocalypse comes? Yeah. It’s gonna take humanity all of five seconds to organize against that shit, you watch. []