nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2019‒07‒08
ten papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Fertility and Modernity By Enrico Spolaore; Romain Wacziarg
  2. Why Did Pre-Modern States Adopt Big-God Religions? By Stergios Skaperdas; Samarth Vaidya
  3. The Historical Roots of Ethnic Differences: The Role of Geography and Trade By Andrew Dickens
  4. On the Evolution of Norms in Strategic Environments By Sebastiano Della Lena; Pietro Dindo
  5. Neuroeconomics and modern neuroscience By Daniel Serra
  6. How the Neolithic Revolution Has Unfolded: Invention and Adoption or Change and Adaptation? Addressing the Diffusion Controversy about Initial Domestication By Serge Svizzero
  7. Does Culture Matter? A Test of the Harrison Hypothesis By Colin A. Moore; Elizabeth Mubanga Chishimba; Paul N. Wilson
  8. Switching queues, cultural conventions, and social welfare By Stark, Oded; Budzinski, Wiktor; Kosiorowski, Grzegorz
  9. Escalation and Well-being By Fabio D'Orlando; Sharon Ricciotti

  1. By: Enrico Spolaore; Romain Wacziarg
    Abstract: We investigate the determinants of the fertility decline in Europe from 1830 to 1970 using a newly constructed dataset of linguistic distances between European regions. We find that the fertility decline resulted from a gradual diffusion of new fertility behavior from French-speaking regions to the rest of Europe. We observe that societies with higher education, lower infant mortality, higher urbanization, and higher population density had lower levels of fertility during the 19th and early 20th century. However, the fertility decline took place earlier and was initially larger in communities that were culturally closer to the French, while the fertility transition spread only later to societies that were more distant from the cultural frontier. This is consistent with a process of social influence, whereby societies that were linguistically and culturally closer to the French faced lower barriers to the adoption of new social norms and attitudes towards fertility control.
    JEL: J13 N13 O40
    Date: 2019–06
  2. By: Stergios Skaperdas (Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine); Samarth Vaidya (Department of Economics, Deakin Business School, Deakin University)
    Abstract: Over the past two millennia successful pre-modern states in Eurasia adopted and cultivated Big-God religions that emphasize (i) the ruler's legitimacy as divinely ordained and (ii) a morality adapted for large-scale societies that can have positive economic effects. We make sense of this development by building on previous research that has conceptualized pre-modern states as maximizing the ruler’s profit. We model the interaction of rulers and subjects who have both material and psychological payoffs, the latter emanating from religious identity. Overall, religion reduces the cost of controlling subjects through the threat of violence, increases production, increases tax revenue, and reduces banditry. A Big-God ruler, who is also a believer, has greater incentives to invest in expanding the number of believers and the intensity of belief, as well as investing in state capacity. Furthermore, such investments are often complementary, mutually reinforcing one another, thus leading to an evolutionary advantage of rulers that adopted Big-God religions.
    Keywords: State; Ruler; Anarchy; Religion; Morality; Legitimacy; State capacity
    JEL: D70 H0 N40 P40 Z1
    Date: 2019–06
  3. By: Andrew Dickens (Department of Economics, Brock University)
    Abstract: The impact of ethnic divisions on economic growth and development are well understood, yet there is little known about the source of these divisions. This study takes the importance of ethnic group differences as given, and goes a step deeper to explore the geographic and economic foundation of group differences. I construct a novel georeferenced dataset to examine the border region of spatially adjacent ethnic groups, together with variation in the set of potentially cultivatable crops at the onset of the Columbian Exchange, to identify how variation in land productivity impacts linguistic differences between adjacent ethnic groups. I find that ethnic groups separated across geographic regions with high variation in land productivity are more similar in language than groups separated across more homogeneous regions. This finding is consistent with the proposed mechanism: historical trade was more frequent in these high variation regions and the frequency of trade served as a social tie between culturally distinct ethnic groups. To highlight this mechanism, I show that the productivity of a tract of land predicts a group’s historical mode of subsistence, where high productivity regions relied on agriculture and low productivity regions relied on pastoralism. Taken together, these findings suggest that geographic regions with high variation in land productivity relied on various modes of subsistence, thus creating an opportunity for trade. I then document the persistence of this fact with suggestive evidence that neighbouring ethnic groups in close proximity to Old World trade routes are more similar in language today.
    Date: 2019–06
  4. By: Sebastiano Della Lena (Department of Economics, University Of Venice Cà Foscari); Pietro Dindo (Department of Economics, University Of Venice Cà Foscari)
    Abstract: In a heterogeneous population divided into two cultural groups, we investigate the intergenerational dynamics of norms, modeled as preferences over actions, as depending on strategic environments. We find that environments with strategic complementarity or substitutability lead to different long-run norms and horizontal socializations. When players face many games within the same class, under complementarity agents converge to the same norm and socialization is high, under substitutability norms may diverge or become neutral and socialization is low. However, for specific games, partial convergence can arise under complementarity, providing an explanation to cultural heterogeneity, and partial divergence can arise under substitutability.
    Keywords: Evolution of Norms, Cultural Transmission, Endogenous preferences, Cultural Heterogeneity
    JEL: C7 D9 I20 J15 Z1
    Date: 2019
  5. By: Daniel Serra (CEE-M - Centre d'Economie de l'Environnement - Montpellier - FRE2010 - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - UM - Université de Montpellier - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - Montpellier SupAgro - Institut national d’études supérieures agronomiques de Montpellier)
    Abstract: The paper is an overview of the main significant advances in the knowledge of brain functioning by modern neuroscience that have contributed to the emergence of neuroeconomics and its rise over the past two decades. These advances are grouped over three non-independent topics referred to as the "emo-rational" brain, "social" brain, and "computational" brain. For each topic, it emphasizes findings considered as critical to the birth and development of neuroeconomics while highlighting some of prominent questions about which knowledge should be improved by future research. In parallel, it shows that the boundaries between neuroeconomics and several recent subfields of cognitive neuroscience, such as affective, social, and more generally, decision neuroscience, are rather porous. It suggests that a greater autonomy of neuroeconomics should perhaps come from the development of studies about more economic policy-oriented concerns. In order to make the paper accessible to a large audience the various neuroscientific notions used are defined and briefly explained. In the same way, for economists not specialized in experimental and behavioral economics, the definition of the main economic models referred to in the text is recalled.
    Keywords: neuroeconomics,neuroscience,behavioral economics,experimental economics
    Date: 2019
  6. By: Serge Svizzero (CEMOI - Centre d'Économie et de Management de l'Océan Indien - UR - Université de La Réunion)
    Abstract: It is widely agreed that initial domestication of plants and animals can be considered as the major innovation underlying the Neolithic revolution. There is however a controversy about how it has unfolded. One view supports it was an invention with subsequent adoption, and stresses the role of human intention in a rapid transition, geographically focused. The other view contends it was change and subsequent adaptation, and highlights the role of chance and co-evolution in a protracted and spatially diffused process. Thanks to recent developments of archaeobotany and archaeozoology, we evaluate both views and conclude that the latter is more relevant.
    Keywords: domestication,origins of agriculture,Neolithic revolution,innovation,diffusion controversy
    Date: 2017–11–29
  7. By: Colin A. Moore; Elizabeth Mubanga Chishimba; Paul N. Wilson
    Abstract: This study utilizes unique data from the World Values Survey to test the hypothesis that fatalism and the practice of the Golden Rule influence the economic development of nations. We use standard econometric models that account for endogeneity to understand the relative roles of culture, productivity, institutions, and geography in explaining human flourishing. Our analysis supports Harrison’s cultural hypothesis and demonstrates that fatalism and altruism’s explanatory powers, in our full model, are no less powerful than productivity, institutions, and geography in explaining economic performance. However, transforming existing fatalistic and altruistic attitudes in a positive direction using public policy to provide greater support for human flourishing may prove more challenging than overcoming other development constraints.
    Keywords: International Development
    Date: 2019–06–28
  8. By: Stark, Oded; Budzinski, Wiktor; Kosiorowski, Grzegorz
    Abstract: We use queuing-related behavior as an instrument for assessing the social appeal of alternative cultural norms. Specifically, we study the behavior of rational and sophisticated individuals who stand in a given queue waiting to be served, and who, in order to speed up the process, consider switching to another queue. We look at two regimes that govern the possible order in which the individuals stand should they switch to the other queue: a regime in which cultural convention, social norms, and basic notions of fairness require that the order in the initial queue is preserved, and a regime without such cultural inhibitions, in which case the order in the other queue is random, with each configuration or sequence being equally likely. We seek to find out whether in these two regimes the aggregate of the behaviors of self-interested individuals adds up to the social optimum defined as the shortest possible total waiting time. To do this, we draw on a Nash Equilibrium setting. We find that in the case of the preserved order, the equilibrium outcomes are always socially optimal. However, in the case of the random order, unless the number of individuals is small, the equilibrium outcomes are not socially optimal.
    Keywords: Political Economy, Public Economics, Research Methods/ Statistical Methods
    Date: 2019–07–02
  9. By: Fabio D'Orlando (University of Cassino and Lazio Meridionale); Sharon Ricciotti (University of Cassino and Lazio Meridionale)
    Abstract: Escalation is a key characteristic of many consumption behaviors that has not received the theoretical attention it deserves. The aim of this paper is to propose both a definition and a theoretical treatment of escalation in consumption. We shall define escalation as the attempt to engage in consumption acts that are “more intense” on a measurable quantitative or qualitative, objective or subjective, scale (more difficult ski slopes, stronger drugs, harder sex, better restaurants, riskier games, etc.), even if, previously, the subject preferred less intense consumption behaviors. Further, this evolution in preferences also occurs if the budget constraint does not change. We will find endogenous and exogenous theoretical microfoundations for escalation in models of hedonic adaptation, desire for novelty, acquisition of consumption skills, rising aspirations, positional effects, and envy. However, we will also discuss the possibility that the tendency to escalate is a specific innate behavior inherent to human nature. Finally, we will propose a preliminary theoretical formalization of such behavior and indicate the possible implications of taking escalation into adequate consideration.
    JEL: B52 D11 D90 D91 I31
    Date: 2019–06–28
  10. By: Hu Min
    Abstract: Language communication and economic activities are closely related, both of which are the needs of human development. Economic development affects the survival and development of language, but at the same time, language communication and dissemination also react to the economic development. This paper presents the analyses of the causes and constraints of India's rapid economic development from the linguistic perspective. At the same time, by combining the experience of the author in India, the important role of language in economic and trade is analyzed. Key Words:Language, Economy, English, Hindi, Economic Development Policy
    Date: 2019–03

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