Mary Shenk

The Pennsylvania State University 318 Carpenter Building University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-1045

Mary Shenk

Penn State University
Associate Professor of AnthropologyDemography, and Asian Studies
Faculty Associate: Population Research Institute
Faculty Affiliate: Center for Human Ecology

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.

Current Work

  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.


  • Anth 408: Anthropological Demography
  • Anth 446: Mating and Marriage
  • Anth 458: Ethnographic Field Methods
  • Anth 509: Proposal Writing
  • Anth 573: Research Practicum in Anthropology

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.