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Stability and Change in In-Group Mate Preferences among Young People in Ethiopia Are Predicted by Food Security and Gender Attitudes, but Not by Expected Pathogen Exposures.

Hum Nat; 28(4): 395-406, 2017 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-28871516
There is broad anthropological interest in understanding how people define "insiders" and "outsiders" and how this shapes their attitudes and behaviors toward others. As such, a suite of hypotheses has been proposed to account for the varying degrees of in-group preference between individuals and societies. We test three hypotheses related to material insecurity, pathogen stress, and views of gender equality among cross-sectional (n = 1896) and longitudinal (n = 1002) samples of young people in Ethiopia (aged 13-17 years at baseline) to explore stability and change in their preferences for coethnic spouses. We show that food insecurity is associated with a greater likelihood of intolerant mate preferences. We also find that young people who hold more gender equitable attitudes tended to hold more tolerant mate preferences. Finally, we find no support for the hypothesis that expected pathogen exposure is associated with intolerant mate preferences. Our results most strongly support a material insecurity hypothesis of in-group bias, which assumes that uncertainty over meeting basic needs leads people to favor those in their in-group. As such, our findings join a small but growing group of studies that highlight the importance of material insecurity for understanding tolerance, xenophobia, in-group bias, and favoritism.