Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo
Hrdy Fellow
Harvard University
Evolutionary Perspectives on Childhood and the Human Capacity for Population Growth

Karen Kramer is an associate professor in human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the comparative study of human demography, life history, household labor, subsistence, and reproductive ecology in traditional small-scale societies. Her ongoing field research includes projects with Yucatec Maya agriculturalists and with two related groups of Pumé hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists, indigenous to the savannas of Venezuela. She also collaborates with conservation biologists and primatologists to evaluate the interaction among population growth, farming practices, and deforestation in Madagascar.

The question that unifies Kramer’s research is why humans have the capacity for unprecedented population growth compared to other closely related species. At Radcliffe, she will work on a book about the biological and economic aspects of human childhood as they relate to the human demographic advantage. The book draws on comparative primate, fossil, and cross-cultural evidence to examine the evolutionary underpinnings of the unique relationship between human mothers and their young and their relevance to current demographic issues.

Kramer is author of Maya Children: Helpers at the Farm (Harvard University Press, 2005). She received her PhD in anthropology from the University of New Mexico and was a postdoctoral fellow in demography at the University of California at Berkeley. She was an associate professor at Stony Brook University before joining the Harvard faculty. Her research has been funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Milton Fund, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution.

This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.
Photo by Tony Rinaldo