Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
How and why do human systems of marriage and reproduction differ from comparable systems in other mammals? To answer these questions, we use data from 90 human societies and 49 mammalian species. We demonstrate that humans exhibit lower average sex differences in reproductive inequality than do most other mammals, while nevertheless falling within the mammalian range. We attribute these small sex differences in reproductive skew to institutions supporting monogamy, to a limited intensity of polygyny in those groups practicing it, and especially to heavy dependence of children on care from both parents in our species. Such mammal-wide comparisons reveal the extent of, and possible reasons for, human exceptionalism.