Research

My research has focused, broadly, on three main areas:

  • parental investment in children, and children’s outcomes
  • engagement in health risk behaviors, particularly for pregnancy, birth outcomes, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS
  • health and education inequalities

My work on parental investment, and the trade-offs individuals face between investment in children versus mating effort or in themselves, includes:

  • comparing investments by stepfathers and genetic fathers, in Cape Town, South Africa and Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA)
  • examining paternity confidence (whether men think they are the fathers of the children attributed to them) and its implications for men’s investments in children (as well as in the relationship with the child’s mother)
  • explaining the very low fertility observed in post-demographic transition societies such as the United States
  • trade-offs between paying child support and men’s ability to subsequently father children or remarry
  • time use among men and women in subsistence ecologies
  • examining the factors that influence whether a man is named as the father on a child’s birth certificate, and the implications for the child’s well being
  • male care and life history outcomes among non-human primates

My work on health risk behaviors includes:

  • describing HIV/AIDS knowledge, risk perceptions, and risk behaviors among Cape Town youth
  • whether father absence, and other forms of adverse childhood environment, influences children’s subsequent reproductive and sexual behaviors in South Africa and the United States
  • the relationship between local life expectancy and engagement in risky sexual behaviors

My work on health and education inequalities includes:

  • educational expectations and attainment in Cape Town, South Africa
  • surgical disparities in voluntary sterilization in the United States (with the riskier, costlier forms of sterilization concentrated among minorities)
  • obesity, diabetes, and pregnancy outcomes among American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • differential child mortality among groups that migrated to Oklahoma voluntarily versus involuntarily (read more about this project here)

Much (though by no means all) of my research draws upon life history theory, the branch of evolutionary biology that focuses on the timing of sexual maturity, reproduction, and mortality in the contexts of trade-offs between investing in offspring, in relationships with mates, and in oneself. A good introduction to life history theory can be found here.

Pictured above: informal housing in Guguletu township, Cape Town, South Africa