nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2019‒03‒18
five papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Childlessness, Celibacy and Net Fertility in Pre-Industrial England: The Middle-class Evolutionary Advantage By Croix, David de la; Schneider, Eric B.; Weisdorf, Jacob
  2. Female Seclusion from Paid Work: A Social Norm or Cultural Preference? By Mohammad Niaz Asadullah; Zaki Wahhaj
  3. The Deadweight Loss of Social Recognition By Luigi Butera; Robert Metcalfe; William Morrison; Dmitry Taubinsky
  4. Transfers by force and deception lead to stability in an evolutionary learning process when controlled by net profit but not by turnover By Friedrich, Thomas
  5. Narratives, Imperatives, and Moral Reasoning By Roland Bénabou; Armin Falk; Jean Tirole

  1. By: Croix, David de la (IRES, UCLouvain and CEPR); Schneider, Eric B. (London School of Economics and CEPR); Weisdorf, Jacob (University of Southern Denmark, CEPR, and CAGE)
    Abstract: In explaining England’s early industrial development, previous research has highlighted that wealthy pre-industrial elites had more surviving offspring than their poorer counterparts. Thus, entrepreneurial traits spread and helped England grow rich. We contest this view, showing that lower-class reproduction rates were no different from the elites when taking singleness and childlessness into account. Elites married less and were more often childless. Many died without descendants. We find that the middle classes had the highest net reproduction and argue that this advantage was instrumental to England’s economic success because the middle class invested most strongly in human capital.
    Keywords: Fertility, Marriage, Childlessness, European Marriage Pattern, Industrial Revolution, Evolutionary Advantage, Social Class JEL Classification: J12, J13, N33
    Date: 2019
  2. By: Mohammad Niaz Asadullah; Zaki Wahhaj
    Abstract: We propose and empirically test a theory of female paid work participation in a setting with traditional norms of female seclusion. Theoretically, we distinguish between innate preferences for female seclusion – potentially transmitted from parents to children – and a practice of female seclusion due to social pressure for adhering to these norms. Using a purposefully designed survey on female work in Bangladesh, we use information on purdah practice at the level of individuals, households, and communities to construct measures of individual preference and community pressure for female seclusion. Using past purdah practice within an individual’s parental home and at the level of the sub-district as instruments, we provide causal estimates of the effect of individual preferences and social pressure for female seclusion on female paid work participation. Our instrumental variable estimates indicate that individual purdah preferences have no effect, but the social prevalence of purdah has a strong negative effect on female paid work participation. We provide robustness checks to show that the results are not being driven by other potential determinants of purdah practice in Bangladesh, including religiosity within the community, rising female enrolment in religious schools, growth of microfinance, and norm transmission through migrant links to religiously conservative countries.
    Keywords: labour force participation; culture; social norms; gender; Bangladesh
    Date: 2019–02
  3. By: Luigi Butera; Robert Metcalfe; William Morrison; Dmitry Taubinsky
    Abstract: A growing body of empirical work shows that social recognition of individuals' behavior can meaningfully influence individuals’ choices. This paper studies whether social recognition is a socially efficient lever for influencing individuals’ choices. Because social recognition generates utility from esteem to some but disutility from shame to others, it can be either positive-sum, zero-sum, or negative-sum. This depends on whether the social recognition utility function is convex, linear, or concave, respectively. We develop a new revealed preferences methodology to investigate this question, which we deploy in a field experiment on promoting attendance to the YMCA of the Triangle Area. We find that social recognition increases YMCA attendance by 17-23% over a one-month period in our experiment, and our estimated structural models predict that it would increase attendance by 19-23% if it were applied to the whole YMCA of the Triangle Area population. However, we find that the social recognition utility function is significantly concave and thus generates deadweight loss. If our social recognition intervention were applied to the whole YMCA of the Triangle Area population, we estimate that it would generate deadweight loss of $1.23-$2.15 per dollar of behaviorally-equivalent financial incentives.
    JEL: D8 D9 H0 I0
    Date: 2019–03
  4. By: Friedrich, Thomas
    Abstract: An evolutionary process is characterized by heritable variation through random mutation, positive selection of the fittest, and random genetic drift. A learning process can be similarly organized and does not need insight or understanding. Instructions are changed randomly, evaluated, and better instructions are propagated. While evolution of an enzyme or a company is a long-lasting process (change of hardware) learning is a fast process (change of software). In my model the basic ensemble consists of a source and a sink. Both have saturating benefit functions (b) and linear cost functions (c). In cost domination (b-c 0) sink takes it - both at free will - thus creating a basic superadditivity. It is not reasonable to give when b-c>0 or take when b-c
    Keywords: ensemble; source; sink; transfer space; superadditivity; subadditivity; master
    JEL: Z0
    Date: 2019–03–13
  5. By: Roland Bénabou; Armin Falk; Jean Tirole
    Abstract: By downplaying externalities, magnifying the cost of moral behavior, or suggesting not being pivotal, exculpatory narratives can allow individuals to maintain a positive image when in fact acting in a morally questionable way. Conversely, responsibilizing narratives can help sustain better social norms. We investigate when narratives emerge from a principal or the actor himself, how they are interpreted and transmitted by others, and when they spread virally. We then turn to how narratives compete with imperatives (general moral rules or precepts) as alternative modes of communication to persuade agents to behave in desirable ways.
    Date: 2019–02

This nep-evo issue is ©2019 by Matthew Baker. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.