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Mary K. Shenk

Mary K. Shenk

Associate Professor of Anthropology & Demography

Faculty Associate, Population Research Institute

Faculty Affiliate, Center for Human Ecology

318 Carpenter Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 863-1045


  1. PhD University of Washington, 2005


I am a biocultural anthropologist, human behavioral ecologist, and anthropological demographer with interests in marriage, family, kinship, parental investment, fertility, mortality, and inequality. I have conducted field research on the economics of marriage and parental investment in urban South India, the causes of rapid fertility decline in rural Bangladesh, and the effects of market integration on wealth, social networks, and health in rural Bangladesh.


  1. Understanding the foundations of inequality and how these shift with both market integration and adaptation to local environments.
  2. Understanding the evolutionary demography of human fertility, including the psychological mechanisms that underpin human reproduction
  3. The behavioral ecology of human kinship, marriage, and family systems.


My fieldwork focuses on South Asia, particularly Bangladesh and India, but I am also interested in cross-cultural work. I employ both quantitative and qualitative methods of research, and believe that firsthand fieldwork is essential to a deep understanding of social phenomena as well as to ensure that analyses are appropriately designed and findings are understood in socioecological context.

Research Interests

Human behavioral ecology, anthropological demography, evolutionary demography, fertility, parental investment, marriage, kinship, inequality, India, Bangladesh

Research Foci

Human Ecology: