Date of Graduation

Spring 5-19-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Alessandra Cassar


Why do humans cooperate? Given the extensive range of literature from various disciplines on the puzzle of human cooperation, there is no one answer to that question. In this paper, I look at whether childcare provided by individuals other than the genetic mother, i.e. allomaternal care, can be one possible explanation for the evolution of human cooperation, especially in small communities with no formal childcare. The data for this study comes from field experiments & surveys conducted with a sample of 416 mothers and fathers from matrilocal and patrilocal tribes in North-east India. I present evidence that allomaternal care plays a significant role in eliciting cooperation towards caregivers and strangers through mechanisms such as reciprocity, altruism & kin selection. I also find differences in cooperative behavior towards kin, non-kin & strangers between and within each tribe. These results highlight how traditional social systems such as residence practices shape gender norms & motivate varying social preferences.