nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2017‒11‒12
five papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Roots of Autocracy By Oded Galor; Marc P. B. Klemp
  2. Creating an efficient culture of cooperation By Ernst Fehr; Tony Williams
  3. The Macrogenoeconomics of Comparative Development By Quamrul H. Ashraf; Oded Galor
  4. Beyond "Social Contagion": Associational Diffusion and the Emergence of Cultural Variation By Goldberg, Amir; Stein, Sarah K.
  5. Laws and Norms: Experimental Evidence with Liability Rules By Bruno Deffains; Claude Fluet; Romain Espinosa

  1. By: Oded Galor; Marc P. B. Klemp
    Abstract: Exploiting a novel geo-referenced data set of population diversity across ethnic groups, this research advances the hypothesis and empirically establishes that variation in population diversity across human societies, as determined in the course of the exodus of human from Africa tens of thousands of years ago, contributed to the di↵erential formation of pre-colonial autocratic institutions within ethnic groups and the emergence of autocratic institutions across countries. Diversity has amplified the importance of institutions in mitigating the adverse e↵ects of non-cohesiveness on productivity, while contributing to the scope for domination, leading to the formation of institutions of the autocratic type.
    Keywords: autocracy, economic growth, diversity, institutions, out-of-Africa hypothesis of comparative development
    JEL: O10 O43 Z10
    Date: 2017
  2. By: Ernst Fehr; Tony Williams
    Abstract: Throughout human history, informal sanctions by peers were ubiquitous and played a key role in the enforcement of social norms and the provision of public goods. However, a considerable body of evidence suggests that informal peer sanctions cause large collateral damage and efficiency costs. This raises the question whether peer sanctioning systems exist that avoid these costs and whether other, more centralized, punishment systems are superior and will be preferred by the people. Here, we show that efficient peer sanctioning without much need for costly punishment emerges quickly if we introduce two relevant features of social life into the experiment: (i) subjects can migrate across groups with different sanctioning institutions and (ii) they have the chance to achieve consensus about normatively appropriate behavior. We also show that subjects universally reject peer sanctioning without a norm consensus opportunity –an institution that has hitherto dominated research in this field – in favor of our efficient peer sanctioning institution or an equally efficient institution where they delegate the power to sanction to an elected judge. Migration opportunities and normative consensus building are key to the quick emergence of an efficient culture of universal cooperation because the more prosocial subjects populate the two efficient institutions first, elect prosocial judges (if institutionally possible), and immediately establish a social norm of high cooperation. This norm appears to guide subjects’ cooperation and punishment choices, including the virtually complete removal of antisocial punishment when judges make the sanctioning decision.
    Keywords: Cooperation, punishment, endogenous institutions, public goods
    JEL: D02 D03 D72 H41
    Date: 2017–10
  3. By: Quamrul H. Ashraf; Oded Galor
    Abstract: The importance of evolutionary forces for comparative economic performance across societies has been the focus of a vibrant literature, highlighting the roles played by the Neolithic Revolution and the prehistoric “out of Africa†migration of anatomically modern humans in generating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits. This essay surveys this literature and examines the contribution of a recent hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development, set forth in Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, to this important line of research.
    Keywords: comparative development, human evolution, natural selection, genes, race, the “out of Africa†hypothesis, genetic diversity
    JEL: O11 N10 N30 Z10
    Date: 2017
  4. By: Goldberg, Amir (Stanford University); Stein, Sarah K. (Stanford University)
    Abstract: Network models of diffusion predominantly think about cultural variation as a product of "social contagion." But culture does not spread like a virus. In this paper, we propose an alternative explanation which we refer to as "associational diffusion." Drawing on two insights from research in cognition--that meaning inheres in cognitive associations between concepts, and that such perceived associations constrain people's actions--we suggest that rather than beliefs or behaviors per-se, the things being transmitted between individuals are perceptions about what beliefs or behaviors are compatible with one another. We demonstrate that the endogenous emergence of cultural differentiation can be entirely attributable to social cognition, and does not necessitate a segregated social network or a preexisting division into groups. Our results are robust to variation in individuals' levels of conformity.
    Date: 2017–05
  5. By: Bruno Deffains; Claude Fluet; Romain Espinosa
    Abstract: We conduct an experiment where participants choose between actions that provide private benefits but may also impose losses on strangers. Three legal environments are compared: no law, strict liability for the harm caused to others and an efficiently designed negligence rule where damages are paid only when the harmful action causes a net social loss. Legal obligations are either perfectly enforced (Severe Law) or only weakly so (Mild Law), i.e.,material incentives are then nondeterrent. We investigate how legal obligations and social norms interact. Our results show that liability rules strengthen pro-social behavior and suggest that strict liability has a greater effect than the negligence rule.
    JEL: C91 K13 D03
    Date: 2017–10–30

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