A multi-agent simulation is used to explore the relationship between the micro and the macro levels in small-scale societies. The simulation demonstrates, using an African hunter-gatherer group (the !Kung san) as a case study, the way in which population stability may arise from culturally framed, micro-level decision making by women about spacing of births. According to the simulation, population stability as an emergent property has different implications, depending on resource density. Data on Australian hunter-gatherer groups are presented that support the implications of the simulation. !Kung san micro-level cultural rules on incestuous marriages are shown to have macro-level consequences in the form of marriages between residential camps. Between-camp marriages have significant implications for access to resources and thereby for population dynamics of the group as a whole.