Tropical Africa is known to be lagging far behind the rest of the world in its fertility transition. Many attempts have been made to specify the factors responsible for its resistance to fertility decline; however, no systemic explanation of the mechanisms sustaining its high fertility has been presented in cross-cultural perspective. In this article, we show how a set of anthropological factors provides both social and economic foundations for the preservation of high fertility in tropical Africa. Cross-cultural tests imply that the most important obstacles to tropical Africa’s fertility transition are (a) a high ideal family size, (b) a large potential to absorb increases in the female labor force participation rate without any substantial decreases in fertility due to ample child care readily available through extended family structures, (c) a large potential to increase fertility at the early stages of economic development through the abolition of postpartum sex taboos, and (d) a low potential for increases in birth spacing to contribute to fertility decline. In the last section, we discuss how the results obtained could be useful for policy recommendations aimed at accelerating the fertility decline in tropical Africa, and mitigating the forecasts of explosive population growth.
Burton and Reitz suggest that Islam should tend to decrease the levels of female labor force participation rate, because “societies that seclude their women by means of purdah or similar customs will have lower rates of female participation in activities outside of the immediate household”. Our cross-cultural tests have supported this hypothesis. However, a closer analysis shows that a high correlation is predicted mostly by the “Arab factor”, rather than by the precisely Islamic one, as a country’s belonging to the Arab world turns out to be a much stronger predictor of very low female labor participation rates than the percentage of Muslims in its population. These relationships hold even after controlling for other factors known to be related to female labor participation. This suggests that the anomalously low level of female labor participation observed in the Near and Middle East might be connected with certain elements of Arab culture that are not directly connected with Islam.
This article presents a cross-cultural analysis that explores the relationship between the importance of gossip and institutionalization. It is reasoned that as institutionalization increases, so does the difficulty of attaining direct information about events and people that would be consequential for any given individual. As a result, gossip should increase with institutionalization, and complexity generally. This general hypothesis is tested against data from a sample of recent and historical societies. The analysis finds support for the hypothesis and also explores the relationship between gossip and gender autonomy. The results are discussed in terms of understanding gossip as a strategy for attaining information when direct information gathering is inhibited by one’s social structural circumstances. The article closes with a discussion of possible implications for contemporary societies. © 2014 SAGE Publications.