nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2019‒02‒25
eight papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Bite and Divide: Malaria and Ethnolinguistic Diversity By Cervellati, Matteo; Chiovelli, Giorgio; Esposito, Elena
  2. Folklore By Michalopoulos, Stelios; Xue, Melanie Meng
  3. On Self-Serving Strategic Beliefs By Nadja R. Ging-Jehli; Florian H. Schneider; Roberto A. Weber
  4. Multigenerational Transmission of Culture By Daniel Spiro
  5. The Economics of Parenting By Doepke, Matthias; Sorrenti, Giuseppe; Zilibotti, Fabrizio
  6. Behavioral Players in a Game By Suehyun Kwon
  7. The growth pattern of British children, 1850-1975 By Gao, Pei; Schneider, Eric B.
  8. Pandemics, Places, and Populations: Evidence from the Black Death By Jedwab, Remi; Johnson, Noel; Koyama, Mark

  1. By: Cervellati, Matteo; Chiovelli, Giorgio; Esposito, Elena
    Abstract: We investigate the epidemiological origins of ethnic diversity and its persistence. First, we conceptualize the role of malaria for the incentives to voluntary isolation in a Malthusian environment. The theory predicts that interactions in multiple geographically clustered groups with high sexual endogamy allowed limiting disease prevalence and increasing group fitness in pre-modern populations exposed to malaria. Second, using disaggregate level data, we document the hitherto unexplored and robust role of malaria for pre-colonial, historical and contemporaneous ethnic diversity in Africa. Third, falsification tests based on malaria epidemiology and history further allow us to validate the specific predictions of the model. No effect can be detected for other placebo vector-borne diseases. Malaria is a main driver of pre-colonial ethnic diversity in Africa but not in the Americas, where the pathogen was absent before European colonization. Fourth, the effect of ancestral malaria on endogamic cultures is the main predicted channel for the persistence of African ethnicities. Exploiting within village variation across 18 African countries, we find that ancestral malaria, but not malaria today, still affects the differential persistence of ethnicities through its legacy of active endogamic cultures.
    Keywords: African Growth; Cultural and Genetic Selection; Endogamy; Ethnic Groups; Malaria; Malthusian Theory
    JEL: N10 N30 O10 O40 Z10
    Date: 2019–01
  2. By: Michalopoulos, Stelios; Xue, Melanie Meng
    Abstract: Folklore is the collection of traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. This vast expressive body, studied by the corresponding discipline of folklore, has evaded the attention of economists. In this study we do four things that reveal the tremendous potential of this corpus for understanding comparative development and culture. First, we introduce and describe a unique catalogue of folklore that codes the presence of thousands of motifs for roughly 1,000 pre-industrial societies. Second, we use a dictionary-based approach to elicit group-specific measures of various traits related to the natural environment, institutional framework, and mode of subsistence. We establish that these proxies are in accordance with the ethnographic record, and illustrate how to use a group's oral tradition to quantify non-extant characteristics of preindustrial societies. Third, we use folklore to uncover the historical cultural values of a group. Doing so allows us to test various influential conjectures among social scientists including the original affluent society, the culture of honor among pastoralists, the role of family in extended kinship systems and the intensity of trade and rule-following norms in politically centralized group. Finally, we explore how cultural norms inferred via text analysis of oral traditions predict contemporary attitudes and beliefs.
    Keywords: Culture; Development; Folklore; History; Values
    JEL: O10 Z1 Z10 Z13
    Date: 2019–01
  3. By: Nadja R. Ging-Jehli; Florian H. Schneider; Roberto A. Weber
    Abstract: We experimentally study settings where an individual may have an incentive to adopt negative beliefs about another’s intentions in order to justify egoistic behavior. Our first study uses a game in which a player can take money from an opponent in order to prevent the opponent from subsequently causing harm. We hypothesize that players will justify taking by engaging in “strategic cynicism,” convincing themselves of the opponent’s ill intentions. We elicit incentivized beliefs both from players with such an incentive and from neutral third parties with no incentive to bias their beliefs. We find no difference between the two sets of beliefs, suggesting that people do not negatively bias their beliefs about a strategic opponent even when they have an incentive to do so. This result contrasts with Di Tella, et al. (2015), who argue that they provide evidence of strategic cynicism. We reconcile the discrepancy by using Di Tella, et al.’s, data, a simple model of strategic belief manipulation and a novel experiment in which we replicate Di Tella, et al.’s, experiment and also elicit the beliefs of neutral third parties. Across three experimental datasets, the results provide no evidence of negatively biased beliefs about others’ intentions. However, Di Tella, et al.’s, results and our novel data indicate that those with a greater incentive to view others’ intentions negatively exhibit relatively less positive beliefs than those without such incentives.
    Keywords: motivated beliefs, strategic cynicism, bias, experiment
    JEL: C72 D83 C92
    Date: 2019
  4. By: Daniel Spiro
    Abstract: This paper explores intergenerational transmission of culture and the consequences of a plausible assumption: that people care not only for their children’s culture but also for how their grand-children are raised. This departs from the previous literature which, without exception, assumes parents either do not care about, or fail to consider, the effect their actions have on all future generations. The current paper models a sequential game where parents take actions trading off being close to their own preferences and influencing their children, and where parents take into account that the children face a similar trade-off when raising their children. Predictions regarding endogenous extremism, the effect of societal socialization, parents. discounting, social pressure and interaction between groups are derived. In equilibrium, parents behave more extremely than their own preferences and this effect is intensified the more extreme preferences the parent has. There may be perpetual extremizing whereby an arbitrarily long sequence of generations will behave more extremely than the first ancestor’s preferences. Furthermore, interaction of groups implies more extreme initial behavior but also faster integration.
    Keywords: culture, integration, social pressure
    JEL: D90 J15 Z10
    Date: 2019
  5. By: Doepke, Matthias (Northwestern University); Sorrenti, Giuseppe (University of Zurich); Zilibotti, Fabrizio (University of Zurich)
    Abstract: Parenting decisions are among the most consequential choices people make throughout their lives. Starting with the work of pioneers such as Gary Becker, economists have used the toolset of their discipline to understand what parents do and how parents' actions affect their children. In recent years, the literature on parenting within economics has increasingly leveraged findings and concepts from related disciplines that also deal with parent-child interactions. For example, economists have developed models to understand the choice between various parenting styles that were first explored in the developmental psychology literature, and have estimated detailed empirical models of children's accumulation of cognitive and noncognitive skills in response to parental and other inputs. In this paper, we survey the economic literature on parenting and point out promising directions for future research.
    Keywords: parenting, parenting style, skill acquisition, peer effects, altruism, paternalism
    JEL: J13 J24 R20
    Date: 2019–01
  6. By: Suehyun Kwon
    Abstract: This paper points out issues with having behavioral players together with fully rational players in a game. One example of behavioral players is naive or sophisticated players; one can study higher-order beliefs when sophistication is the first-order belief, but the paper also considers alternative ways of modelling the type space and non-Bayesian updating. The paper shows that players must have heterogeneous priors and this type of heterogeneous priors cannot be justified by acquiring private information from the common prior. Furthermore, equilibrium definitions need to be modified for games with behavioral players.
    Keywords: naivete, misspecified beliefs, heterogeneous priors, higher-order beliefs, equilibrium definition, Harsanyi doctrine
    Date: 2019
  7. By: Gao, Pei; Schneider, Eric B.
    Abstract: This paper is the first to use individual-level, longitudinal measures of child growth to document changes in the growth pattern in Britain between the 1850s and 1970s. Based on a unique dataset gathered from the records of the training ship Indefatigable, we analyse the mean heights of boys at admission and their longitudinal growth using regressions that control for observable characteristics. We find a secular increase in boys’ mean height over time, and the height gain was most rapid during the interwar period. In addition, longitudinal growth velocity was low and similar at different ages for boys born before the 1910s, suggesting that there was no marked pubertal growth spurt like that which occurs in modern populations. However, for boys born in the 1910s and later, higher growth velocities associated with pubertal growth appeared for boys in a narrow range of ages, 14 to 16. Thus, it appears that there was a substantial change in the growth pattern beginning in the 1910s with the emergence of a strong pubertal growth spurt. The timing of this shift implies that declines in child morbidity and improved hygiene mattered more for the changing growth pattern than improvements in nutrition that occurred before the 1910s.
    Keywords: child growth; health transition; ES/L010267/2
    JEL: N33 N35 J13 O15
    Date: 2019–01
  8. By: Jedwab, Remi; Johnson, Noel; Koyama, Mark
    Abstract: The Black Death killed 40% of Europe's population between 1347-1352, making it one of the largest shocks in history. Despite its importance, little is known about its spatial effects and the effects of pandemics more generally. Using a novel dataset that provides information on spatial variation in Plague mortality at the city level, as well as various identification strategies, we explore the short-run and long-run impacts of the Black Death on city growth. On average, cities recovered their pre-Plague populations within two centuries. In addition, aggregate convergence masked heterogeneity in urban recovery. We show that both of these facts are consistent with a Malthusian model in which population returns to high-mortality locations endowed with more rural and urban fixed factors of production. Land suitability and natural and historical trade networks played a vital role in urban recovery. Our study highlights the role played by pandemics in determining both the sizes and placements of populations.
    Keywords: Black Death; cities; growth; Malthusian Theory. Migration; path dependence; Urbanization
    JEL: J11 N00 N13 O11 O47 R11 R12
    Date: 2019–02

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