nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2014‒07‒28
ten papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Who cooperates in repeated games: The role of altruism, inequity aversion, and demographics By Dreber-Almenberg, Anna; Fudenberg, Drew; Rand, David G.
  2. Using Cognitive Dissonance to Manipulate Social Preferences By Oxoby, Robert J.; Smith, Alexander
  3. I Cannot Cheat on You after We Talk By Cristina Bicchieri; Alessandro Sontuoso; ;
  4. The Importance of Being Marginal: Gender Differences in Generosity By Stefano DellaVigna; John List; Ulrike Malmendier; Gautam Rao
  5. Why It Is Hard to Find Genes Associated With Social Science Traits: Theoretical and Empirical Considerations By Lee, James; Borst, Gregoire; Chabris, Christopher F.; Benjamin, Daniel J.; Beauchamp, Jonathan P.; Glaeser, Edward Ludwig; Pinker, Steven; Laibson, David I.
  6. National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration By Proto, Eugenio; Oswald, Andrew J.
  7. Questionable Inference on the Power of Pre-Colonial Institutions in Africa By Denis Cogneau; Yannick Dupraz
  8. Stature, Skills and Adult Life Outcomes: Evidence from Indonesia By Olivier Bargain; Jinan Zeidan
  9. The Economic Approach to Fertility: A Causal Mediation Analysis By Gauthier T. Kashalala; Steven F. Koch
  10. Applying Insights from Behavioral Economics to Policy Design By Brigitte C. Madrian

  1. By: Dreber-Almenberg, Anna; Fudenberg, Drew; Rand, David G.
    Abstract: We explore the extent to which altruism, as measured by giving in a dictator game (DG), accounts for play in a noisy version of the repeated prisoner's dilemma. We find that DG giving is correlated with cooperation in the repeated game when no cooperative equilibria exist, but not when cooperation is an equilibrium. Furthermore, none of the commonly observed strategies are better explained by inequity aversion or efficiency concerns than money maximization. Various survey questions provide additional evidence for the relative unimportance of social preferences. We conclude that cooperation in repeated games is primarily motivated by long-term payoff maximization and that even though some subjects may have other goals, this does not seem to be the key determinant of how play varies with the parameters of the repeated game. In particular, altruism does not seem to be a major source of the observed diversity of play.
    Date: 2014
  2. By: Oxoby, Robert J. (University of Calgary); Smith, Alexander (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)
    Abstract: We explore the role of cognitive dissonance in dictator and public goods games. Specifically, we motivate cognitive dissonance between one's perception of “fair treatment” and self-interested behaviour by having participants answer a question about fairness. Utilizing two manipulations (reminding participants about their answer to the fairness question and publicly reporting aggregate answers to the question), we find that there is greater cognitive dissonance and behavioural change when there is a social component (i.e., reporting of aggregate answers). When a participant's answer to the fairness question is private, there is less dissonance and hence no behavioural change.
    Keywords: cognitive dissonance, experiments, social preferences
    JEL: C91 D64 H41
    Date: 2014–07
  3. By: Cristina Bicchieri; Alessandro Sontuoso (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania); ;
    Abstract: This is a draft of a chapter in a planned book on the Prisoner’s Dilemma, edited by Martin Peterson, to be published by Cambridge University Press. - Experimental evidence on pre-play communication supports a “focusing function of communication” hypothesis. Relevant communication facilitates cooperative, pro-social behavior because it causes a shift in individuals’ focus towards strategies dictated by some salient social norm. After reviewing the formal foundations for a general theory of conformity to social norms, we provide an original application illustrating how a framework that allows for different conjectures about norms is able to capture the focusing function of communication and to explain experimental results.
    Keywords: social norms, social dilemmas
    JEL: C72 C92
    Date: 2014–07
  4. By: Stefano DellaVigna; John List; Ulrike Malmendier; Gautam Rao
    Abstract: Do men and women have different social preferences? Previous findings are contradictory. We�provide a potential explanation using evidence from a field experiment. In a door-to-door�solicitation, men and women are equally generous, but women become less generous when it�becomes easy to avoid the solicitor. Our structural estimates of the social preference parameters�suggest an explanation: women are more likely to be on the margin of giving, partly because of a�less dispersed distribution of altruism. We find similar results for the willingness to complete an�unpaid survey: women are more likely to be on the margin of participation.
  5. By: Lee, James; Borst, Gregoire; Chabris, Christopher F.; Benjamin, Daniel J.; Beauchamp, Jonathan P.; Glaeser, Edward Ludwig; Pinker, Steven; Laibson, David I.
    Abstract: OBJECTIVES: We explain why traits of interest to behavioral scientists may have a genetic architecture featuring hundreds or thousands of loci with tiny individual effects rather than a few with large effects and why such an architecture makes it difficult to find robust associations between traits and genes. METHODS: We conducted a genome-wide association study at 2 sites, Harvard University and Union College, measuring more than 100 physical and behavioral traits with a sample size typical of candidate gene studies. We evaluated predictions that alleles with large effect sizes would be rare and most traits of interest to social science are likely characterized by a lack of strong directional selection. We also carried out a theoretical analysis of the genetic architecture of traits based on R.A. Fisher's geometric model of natural selection and empirical analyses of the effects of selection bias and phenotype measurement stability on the results of genetic association studies. RESULTS: Although we replicated several known genetic associations with physical traits, we found only 2 associations with behavioral traits that met the nominal genome-wide significance threshold, indicating that physical and behavioral traits are mainly affected by numerous genes with small effects. CONCLUSIONS: The challenge for social science genomics is the likelihood that genes are connected to behavioral variation by lengthy, nonlinear, interactive causal chains, and unraveling these chains requires allying with personal genomics to take advantage of the potential for large sample sizes as well as continuing with traditional epidemiological studies.
    Date: 2013
  6. By: Proto, Eugenio (University of Warwick); Oswald, Andrew J. (University of Warwick)
    Abstract: This paper examines a famous puzzle in social science. Why do some nations report such high happiness? Denmark, for instance, regularly tops the league table of rich nations' well-being; Great Britain and the US enter further down; France and Italy do relatively poorly. Yet the explanation for this ranking – one that holds even after adjustment for GDP and socio-economic and cultural variables – remains unknown. We explore a new avenue. Using data on 131 countries, we document a range of evidence consistent with the hypothesis that certain nations may have a genetic advantage in well-being.
    Keywords: well-being, international, happiness, genes, GDP
    JEL: I30 I31
    Date: 2014–07
  7. By: Denis Cogneau (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris - Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement); Yannick Dupraz (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris - Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris)
    Abstract: In their paper "Pre-Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development" [Econometrica 81(1): 113-152], Stelios Michalopoulos and Elias Papaioannou claim that they document a strong relationship between pre-colonial political centralization and regional development, by combining Murdock's ethnographic atlas (1967) with light density at night measures at the local level. We argue that their estimates do not properly take into account population effects. Among lowly populated areas, luminosity is dominated by noise, so that with linear specifications the coefficient of population density is biased downwards. We reveal that the identification of the effect of ethnic centralization very much relies on these areas. We implement a variety of models where the effect of population density is non-linear, and/or where the bounded or truncated nature of luminosity is taken into account. We conclude that the impact of ethnic-level political centralization on development is all contained in its long-term correlation with population density. We also abstract from the luminosity-population nexus by analyzing survey data for 33 countries. We show that individual-level outcomes like access to utilities, education, asset ownership etc. are not correlated with ethnic-level political centralization.
    Keywords: Institutions ; Africa ; Population ; Development ; Light intensity at night
    Date: 2014–06
  8. By: Olivier Bargain (AMSE - Aix-Marseille School of Economics - Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - Ecole Centrale Marseille (ECM), IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor); Jinan Zeidan (AMSE - Aix-Marseille School of Economics - Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - Ecole Centrale Marseille (ECM))
    Abstract: We investigate the effect of height on earnings, occupational choices and a subjective measure of well-being among Indonesian men. We explore the extent to which height captures the effects of human capital endowments set before entry on the labor market. Cognitive skills, co-determined with stature early in life, do not explain much of the height earnings premium directly. Yet, human capital more broadly, including cognition, educational attainment and other factors related to parental investments and background characteristics, explains around half of the height premium and does so through occupational sorting. Indeed, taller workers tend to have more education, and educated workers tend to work in more lucrative occupations that require brain and social skills, not brawn. The unexplained share of the height earnings premium reflects other labor market advantages of taller workers, including psycho-social dimensions. We also find a height premium in happiness, half of which simply accounts for the educational and earnings advantages of taller workers.
    Keywords: height; cognitive skills; physical skills; childhood conditions; earnings; occupation; happiness
    Date: 2014–07
  9. By: Gauthier T. Kashalala (Department of Economics, University of Pretoria); Steven F. Koch (Department of Economics, University of Pretoria)
    Abstract: This study develops an economic fertility model which explicitly incorporates both the costs of childrearing and contraception behaviour. In this setting, a couple capacity to procreate depends on their fecundity, as well as their contraception and sexual behaviours; and the ideal number of children is chosen by maximizing the utility of children, subject to a budget constraint reflecting the couple's income, and their specific explicit and implicit costs of rearing children. Using a nonparametric causal mediation framework (Pearl, 2009; Heckman and Pinto, 2013), our analysis explicitly explores the role of family planning services and the cost of children in mediating the causal effect of income on fertility, subject to unmeasurable fecundity and unobserved sexual risk taking behaviour. In particular, we discuss the definition, identification and estimation of a variety of causal effects, namely, the direct income eect, the contraception effect, and price effect.
    JEL: C14 D13 I38 J13 J38
    Date: 2014–07
  10. By: Brigitte C. Madrian
    Abstract: The premise of this article is that an understanding of psychology and other social science disciplines can inform the effectiveness of the economic tools traditionally deployed in carrying out the functions of government, which include remedying market failures, redistributing income, and collecting tax revenue. An understanding of psychology can also lead to the development of different policy tools that better motivate desired behavior change or that are more cost-effective than traditional policy tools. The article outlines a framework for thinking about the psychology of behavior change in the context of market failures. It then describes the research on the effects of a variety of interventions rooted in an understanding of psychology that have policy-relevant applications. The article concludes by discussing how an understanding of psychology can also inform the use and design of traditional policy tools for behavior change, such as financial incentives.
    JEL: D03 D04 H2 H3
    Date: 2014–07

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