Various theories have been put forward to explain the fact that humans experience menopause while virtually no animals do. This paper aims to investigate one such theory: children provide a savings technology into old age, but as human babies are usually large and have long gestation periods, a substantial risk of death exists for the mother as she bears children. It seems therefore appropriate to impose a stopping rule for fertility. Given an objective (support for old age) and demographics (mortality of mother and children), an optimal age for menopause can be calculated. Using demographic data from populations that have seen little influence from modern medicine, this optimal age is compared to empirical evidence.
Zimmermann, Christian, "Is Menopause Optimal?" (2004). Economics Working Papers. 200431.