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Nomothetic Theory

Nomothetic theories address questions like ‘‘So, what does account for the existence of dowry?’’

Several theorists have tried to answer this question. Esther Boserup (1970) hypothesized that dowry should occur in societies where a woman’s role in subsistence production is low. She was right, but many societies where women’s productive effort is of low value do not have dowry.

Gaulin and Boster (1990) offered a sociobiological theory that predicts dowry in stratified societies that have monogamous or polyandrous marriage. They tested their theory on Murdock and White’s (1969) Standard Cross-Cultural Sample of 186 societies. The Gaulin-Boster theory works better than Boserup's—it misclassifies fewer societies. That's how nomothetic theory grows, though the Gaulin-Boster theory still makes some mistakes. Fully 77% of dowry societies are, in fact, stratified and have monogamous marriage, but 63% of all monogamous, stratified societies do not have dowry. We need more good ideas and more tests to make the theory more inclusive—more nomothetic (box 3.3).

One More: The Second Demographic Transition

Let's do one more—the second demographic transition. The first demographic transition happened at the end of the Paleolithic when people swapped agriculture for hunting and gathering as the main means of production. During the Paleolithic, population growth was very, very slow. But across the world, as people switched from hunting and gathering to agriculture, as they settled down and accumulated surplus, their populations exploded.

The second demographic transition began in the late 18th century in Europe with industrialization and has been spreading around the world ever since. Today, Japan, Germany, Italy, and other highly industrialized countries have total fertility rates (the averBOX 3.3

 
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