Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder Portrait

Position Title
Distinguished Research Professor

214 Young Hall


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Northwestern University, 1987
  • B.A., M.A Hons, Social Anthropology, Edinburgh University 1975


Monique Borgerhoff Mulder trained as a social anthropologist at the University of Edinburgh, and then worked in journalism, teaching and museum archaeology before starting a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, where she wrote a dissertation based on the application of a behavioral ecological and economic model to polygyny in rural Africa . After a post doc at the Evolution and Human Behavior Program at University of Michigan, she joined the UC Davis Anthropology (Evolutionary Wing) faculty in 1991, from where she retired as Distinguished Professor status in 2018-2019. She is now affiliated at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and in 2021 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was appointed External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute.

Research Focus

Professor Borgerhoff Mulder is a human behavioral ecologist (HBE) working on projects relating to life history, inequality, natural resource management, and patterned cultural variation. With HBE she explores big "Why" questions about our species: Why do people marry? What is the basis of gender roles in economic and social behavior? Why has fertility dropped so radically in most parts of the world? How can people cooperate over natural resource management? Why is economic growth in the developing world not reducing inequality. Her students work on these and related issues. She has active conservation and development projects, both research and applied, at national and local levels in Tanzania , in Mpimbwe, with Savannas Forever Tanzania, and most recently in Pemba.


Lukas D., Towner, M. and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2021). The Potential to Infer the Historical Pattern of Cultural Macroevolution. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc.

Broesch T, Crittenden AN ...M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2020). Navigating Cross-Cultural Research: Methodological and Ethical Consideration. Proc B. Lond.

Borgerhoff Mulder M, Beccaria S, Bwasama SS, Caro T, Fitzherbert E, Genda P, Kwiyega JL. (2019). Using community action to halt illegal lion killing. BioScience

Borgerhoff Mulder M, Ross CT. (2019). Unpacking Mating Success and Testing Bateman’s Principles in a Human Population. Proc B. Lond. 286: 20191516

Towner, M. C., Borgerhoff Mulder, M. and 16 more authors.(2019) Inferring sex-biased parental investment in15 small-scale human populations. Phil. Trans. R. Soc Lond. B. 374:

Ross CT, Borgerhoff Mulder, M et al. (2018), Greater wealth inequality, less polygyny: Rethinking the polygyny threshold model. Royal Society Interface

Andrews J, Borgerhoff Mulder M. (2018). Cultural Group Selection and the Design of REDD+: Insights from Pemba. Sustainability Science 13:93-107

Salerno, J., Mwalyoyo, J., Caro, T., Fitzherbert, E. and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2017). The consequences of internal migration in sub-Saharan Africa: A case study". BioScience 67

Ross, C. T., Strimling, P., Ericksen, K., Lindenfors, P., & Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2016). The Origins and Maintenance of Female Genital Modification across Africa. Human Nature

Lawson, D. W., James, S., Ngadaya, E., Ngowi, B., Mfinanga, S. G. M., & Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2015). No evidence that polygynous marriage is a harmful cultural practice in northern Tanzania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Schacht, R., Rauch, K., & Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2014). Too many men? The violence problem. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29(4): 214-222

Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2013) Why an ape with complex cumulative culture dominates the world: Different views. Evolutionary Anthropology 22:34-39.

Brooks, J. S., Waylen, K. A., & Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2012). How national context, project design, and local community characteristics influence success in community-based conservation projects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109:21265-70

Borgerhoff Mulder, M., Bowles, S., Hertz, T., et al. (2009) The intergenerational transmission of wealth and the dynamics of inequality in pre-modern societies. Science 326: 682-88.


  • Elected to National Academy of Sciences (2021)
  • Santa Fe Institute (External Faculty) (2021)
  • Recent Grants: NSF IBSS-L (60 months 01-01-2017 to 12-01-2021). The effect of social networks on inequality: a longitudinal cross-cultural investigation. With J. Koster, S. Bowles, M. Jackson, and E. Power ($860,000).
  • UC Davis Seed Grant (24 months 2015-2017) Conservation, cooperation and carbon credits: Piloting plans for Pemba ($25,000). With Tim Caro.
  • National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESNYC) – Evolution of Sustainability (2015-16)
  • Max Planck Institute. Committee Member for selection (2014-15)
  • Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute of Advanced Studies) (2011-12)
  • Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award (2009)
  • Gerald Young Book Award for “Conservation: Linking Ecology, Economics and Culture. Princeton University Press (2005)