nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2019‒08‒19
nine papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Fertility and Modernity By Enrico Spolaore; Romain Wacziarg
  2. Bringing together “old” and “new” ways of solving social dilemmas? The case of Spanish Gitanos By Espín, Antonio M.; Brañas-Garza, Pablo; Gamella, Juan; Herrmann, Benedikt; Martin, Jesus
  3. Commanding Nature by Obeying Her: A Review Essay on Joel Mokyr's A Culture of Growth By Enrico Spolaore
  4. Self-Control: Determinants, Life Outcomes and Intergenerational Implications By Cobb-Clark, Deborah A.; Dahmann, Sarah C.; Kamhöfer, Daniel A.; Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah
  5. Roman Transport Network Connectivity and Economic Integration By Flueckiger, Matthias; Hornung, Erik; Larch, Mario; Ludwig, Markus; Mees, Allard
  6. Meta-Analysis of Present-Bias Estimation Using Convex Time Budgets By Imai, Taisuke; Rutter, Tom; Camerer, Colin
  7. Many Balls in the Air Makes Time Fly: The Effect of Multitasking on Time Perception and Time Preferences By Hardardottir, Hjördis
  8. A general equilibrium evolutionary model with generic utility functions and generic bell-shaped attractiveness maps, generating fashion cycle dynamics By Ahmad, Naimzada; Marina, Pireddu
  9. Ignorance is bliss: a game of regret By Claudia Cerrone; Francesco Feri; Philip R. Neary

  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.
    Keywords: fertility control, diffusion, social norms, cultural barriers, demographic transition
    JEL: J10 J13 N00 N33
    Date: 2019
  2. By: Espín, Antonio M.; Brañas-Garza, Pablo; Gamella, Juan; Herrmann, Benedikt; Martin, Jesus
    Abstract: Humans often punish non-cooperators in one-shot interactions among genetically-unrelated individuals. So-called altruistic punishment poses an evolutionary puzzle because it enforces a cooperation norm that benefits the whole group, but is costly for the punisher. Under the “big mistake” (or “mismatch”) hypothesis, social behavior such as punishment evolved by individual selection at a time when repeated interactions with kin prevailed. It then misfired in modern humans, who “mistakenly” apply it in sporadic interactions with unrelated individuals. In contrast, cultural group selection theories emphasize cultural differences in normative behavior and the role of intergroup competition and punishment for the emergence of large-scale cooperation in the absence of genetic relatedness. We conducted a series of multilateral-cooperation economic experiments with a sample of Spanish Romani people (Gitanos), who represent a unique cultural group to test the predictions of the two accounts: Gitano communities rely heavily on close kin-based networks, maintain high consanguinity rates and display a particularly strong sense of ethnic identity. A total of 320 Gitano and non-Gitano (i.e., the majority Spanish population) participants played a one-shot public goods game with punishment in either ethnically homogeneous or ethnically mixed (half Gitano and half non-Gitano) four-person groups. In the homogeneous groups, punishment was commonly used by non-Gitanos but virtually inexistent among Gitanos. In the mixed groups, however, Gitanos who did not cooperate were severely punished by other Gitanos, but also by non-Gitanos (particularly males in both cases). The results are more consistent with cultural group selection and also qualify some of its predictions.
    Keywords: cooperation, punishment, Gypsy/Roma, ethnicity, culture, evolution
    JEL: C93 H41 J71 Z13
    Date: 2019–07–31
  3. By: Enrico Spolaore
    Abstract: Why is modern society capable of cumulative innovation? In A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy, Joel Mokyr persuasively argues that sustained technological progress stemmed from a change in cultural beliefs. The change occurred gradually during the seventeenth and eighteenth century and was fostered by an intellectual elite that formed a transnational community and adopted new attitudes toward the creation and diffusion of knowledge, setting the foundation for the ethos of modern science. The book is a significant contribution to the growing literature that links culture and economics. This review discusses Mokyr’s historical analysis in relation to the following questions: What is culture and how should we use it in economics? How can culture explain modern economic growth? Will the culture of growth that caused modern prosperity persist in the future?
    Keywords: technological progress, innovation, useful knowledge, cultural change
    JEL: N13 N33 O30 O52 Z10
    Date: 2019
  4. By: Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. (University of Sydney); Dahmann, Sarah C. (University of Sydney); Kamhöfer, Daniel A. (Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE)); Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
    Abstract: This paper studies self-control in a nationally representative sample. Using the well-established Tangney scale to measure trait self-control, we find that people’s age as well as the political and economic institutions they are exposed to have an economically meaningful impact on their level of self-control. A higher degree of self-control is, in turn, associated with better health, educational and labor market outcomes as well as greater financial and overall well-being. Parents’ self-control is linked to reduced behavioral problems among their children. Importantly, we demonstrate that self-control is a key behavioral economic construct which adds significant explanatory power beyond other more commonly studied personality traits and economic preference parameters. Our results suggest that self-control is potentially a good target for intervention policies.
    Keywords: self-control, Tangney scale, personality traits, intergenerational transmission
    JEL: D91 J24
    Date: 2019–07
  5. By: Flueckiger, Matthias; Hornung, Erik; Larch, Mario; Ludwig, Markus; Mees, Allard
    Abstract: We show that the creation of the first integrated pan-European transport network during Roman times influences economic integration over two millennia. Drawing on spatially highly disaggregated data on excavated Roman ceramics, we document that interregional trade was strongly influenced by connectivity within the network. Today, these connectivity differentials continue to influence cross-regional firm investment behaviour. Continuity is largely explained by selective infrastructure routing and cultural integration due to bilateral convergence in preferences and values. Both plausibly arise from network-induced history of repeated socio-economic interaction. We show that our results are Roman-connectivity specific and do not reflect pre-existing patterns of exchange.
    Keywords: business links; cultural similarity; economic integration; Roman trade; transport network connectivity
    JEL: F15 F21 N73 O18 R12 R40
    Date: 2019–07
  6. By: Imai, Taisuke (LMU Munich); Rutter, Tom (Stanford University); Camerer, Colin (California Institute of Technology)
    Abstract: We examine 220 estimates of the present-bias parameter from 28 articles using the Convex Time Budget protocol. The literature shows that people are on average present biased, but the estimates exhibit substantial heterogeneity across studies. There is evidence of modest selective reporting in the direction of overreporting present-bias. The primary source of the heterogeneity is the type of reward, either monetary or non-monetary reward, but the effect is weakened after correcting for potential selective reporting. In the studies using the monetary reward, the delay until the issue of the reward associated with the \"current\" time period is shown to influence the estimates of present bias parameter.
    Keywords: present bias; structural behavioral economics; meta-analysis; selective reporting;
    JEL: D90 C91
    Date: 2019–07–30
  7. By: Hardardottir, Hjördis (Department of Economics, Lund University)
    Abstract: In this paper, we study how increasing the cognitive demands of multitasking affects time preferences. The novelty of this paper is that it studied how time perception mediates the effect of multitasking on time preferences. Results from experimental psychology have demonstrated that people tend to experience the passage of time as quicker when they are busy with cognitively-demanding tasks. If time is experienced as passing faster, the future should be experienced as being closer, and patience should increase. However, a standard prediction from behavioral economics is that being cognitively loaded leads to less patient decisions. Our hypothesis is that increases in patience, driven by the speeding up of time, and decreases in patience, driven by decreased cognitive capacity, added together explain the total effect of increasing the cognitive demands of multitasking on time preferences. We also shed light on whether the observed relationship between time preferences and time perception within subjects is mirrored when comparing between subjects.
    Keywords: Time preferences; Multitasking; Cognitive load; Time perception; Foundations of preferences
    JEL: C91 D91
    Date: 2019–08–09
  8. By: Ahmad, Naimzada; Marina, Pireddu
    Abstract: We propose a discrete-time exchange economy evolutionary model, in which two groups of agents are possibly characterized by heterogeneous preference structures. With respect to the classical Walrasian framework, in our setting the definition of equilibrium, in addition to utility functions and endowments, depends also on population shares, which affect the market clearing conditions. We prove that, despite such difference with the standard framework, for every economy and for each population shares there exists at least one equilibrium and we show that, for all population shares, generically in the set of the economies, equilibria are finite and regular. We then introduce the dynamic law governing the evolution of the population shares, and we investigate the existence and the stability of the resulting stationary equilibria. More precisely, we assume that the reproduction level of a group is related to its attractiveness degree, which depends on the social visibility level, determined by the consumption choices of the agents in that group. The attractiveness of a group is described via a generic bell-shaped map, increasing for low visibility levels, but decreasing when the visibility of the group exceeds a given threshold value, due to a congestion effect. Thanks to the combined action of the price mechanism and of the share updating rule, the model may reproduce the recurrent dynamic behavior typical of the fashion cycle, presenting booms and busts in the agents’ consumption choices, and in the groups’ attractiveness and population shares. We illustrate the emergence of fashion cycle dynamics in the case of Stone-Geary utility functions, which generalize the Cobb-Douglas utility functions, and for different formulations of the attractiveness maps, already considered in the literature.
    Keywords: general equilibrium; heterogeneous agents; evolution; bifurcation; fashion cycle.
    JEL: C62 D11 D51 D91
    Date: 2019–02
  9. By: Claudia Cerrone (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn); Francesco Feri (Royal Holloway, Department of Economics); Philip R. Neary (Royal Holloway, Department of Economics)
    Abstract: Existing models of regret aversion assume that individuals can make an ex-post comparison between their choice and a foregone alternative. Yet in many situations such a comparison can be made only if someone else chose the alternative option. We develop a model where regret-averse agents must decide between the status quo and a new risky option that outperforms the status quo in expectation, and learn the outcome of the risky option, if unchosen, with a probability that depends on the choices of others. This turns what was previously a series of single-person decision problems into a coordination game. Most notably, regret can facilitate coordination on the status quo { an action that would not be observed if the agents were acting in isolation or had standard preferences. We experimentally test the model and find that regret-averse agents behave as predicted by our theory.
    Keywords: regret aversion, coordination games, information
    JEL: C72 C92 D81 D91
    Date: 2019–07

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