nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2020‒08‒17
six papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Polarization, Antipathy, and Political Activism By Zhang, Hanzhe; Wu, Jiabin
  2. Non-selfish behaviour: Are social preferences or social norms revealed in distribution decisions? By Heap, Shaun P. Hargreaves; Matakos, Konstantinos; Weber, Nina Sophie
  3. Integration and Diversity By Sanjeev Goyal; Penelope Hernandez; Guillem Martinez-Canovas; Frederic Moisan; Manuel Munoz-Herrera; Angel Sanchez
  4. The Economic Motives for Foot-binding By Xinyu Fan; Lingwei Wu
  5. Paradise Postponed: Future Tense and Religiosity By Astghik Mavisakalyan; Yashar Tarverdi; Clas Weber
  6. Making Marital Status in South Africa, Past and Present By Yarbrough, Michael W.

  1. By: Zhang, Hanzhe (Michigan State University, Department of Economics); Wu, Jiabin (Department of Economics, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR)
    Abstract: We apply an evolutionary game theory model to explain polarization, antipathy, and political activism as a consequence of the co-evolution of individuals' ideologies and attitudes toward other ideologies. We show that the evolutionary process results in a vicious cycle with individuals becoming increasingly polarized on the ideological spectrum and the society ending up with two politically engaged groups sharing no common grounds and strong hatred against each other.
    Keywords: polarization; antipathy; political activism; value formation; cultural transmission; evolutionary game theory
    JEL: C73 Z13
    Date: 2020–08–04
  2. By: Heap, Shaun P. Hargreaves; Matakos, Konstantinos; Weber, Nina Sophie
    Abstract: People frequently behave non-selfishly in situations where they can reduce their own payoff to help others. It is typically assumed that such pro-social behaviour arises because people are motivated by a social preference. An alternative explanation is that they follow a social norm. We test with two survey experiments (N=2,408) which of these two explanations can better explain decisions people make in a simple distribution game under three different elicitation mechanisms. Unlike previous studies, we elicit preferences and perceived social norms directly for each subject. We find that i) norm-following better explains people’s distributive choices compared to social preferences and ii) lack of confidence in one’s social preference –itself explained by weaker social identification— predicts norm-following. Our findings imply that the Pareto criterion has weaker (than previously thought) foundations for welfare evaluations, but this effect may be attenuated in societies with stronger social identification. Perhaps unexpectedly, but unsurprisingly given i) above, we find that different mechanisms for eliciting social preferences have no effect on distribution decisions.
    Date: 2020–07–23
  3. By: Sanjeev Goyal; Penelope Hernandez; Guillem Martinez-Canovas; Frederic Moisan; Manuel Munoz-Herrera; Angel Sanchez (Division of Social Science)
    Abstract: We study a setting where individuals prefer to coordinate with others but they di er on their preferred action. Our interest is understanding the role of linking in shaping behavior. So we consider the situation in which interactions are exogenous and a situation where individuals choose links that determine the interactions. Theory is permissive in both settings: conformism (on either of the actions) and diversity (with di erent groups choosing their preferred actions) are both sustainable in equilibrium. Our experiments reveal that, in an exogenous complete network, subjects choose to conform to the majority's preferred action. By contrast, when linking is free and endogenous, subjects form dense networks (biased in favour of linking within same preferences type) but choose diverse actions. The convergence to diverse actions is faster under endogenous linking as compared to the convergence to conformity on the majority's preferred action under the exogenous complete network. Thus, our experiment suggests that individuals use links selectively to swiftly solve the coordination problem.
    Date: 2019–03
  4. By: Xinyu Fan; Lingwei Wu
    Abstract: We study foot-binding – a practice that reshaped millions of women’s feet in historical China, yet in lack of a consistent explanation of its temporal, regional, class, and size variation. We present a model of foot-binding, where it serves as a premarital investment tool in response to a male-specific social mobility shock, and women trade off labor distortions for marriage prospects. Furthermore, the regional shifts on both sides of the trade-off explained its observed variation. Using county-level archival data on foot-binding, we corroborate the theory with empirical evidence.
    Keywords: Gender Norm, Marriage Market, Labor, Foot-binding
    JEL: N35 J16 O15 Z10
    Date: 2020–06
  5. By: Astghik Mavisakalyan (Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre, Curtin University); Yashar Tarverdi (Department of Treasury WA, Australia and Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre, Curtin University); Clas Weber (University of Western Australia, Australia)
    Abstract: This paper identifies a new source of differences in religiosity: the presence of future tense marking in language. We argue that the rewards and punishments that incentivise religious behaviour are less effective for speakers of languages that contain future tense marking. Consistent with this prediction, we show that speakers of future-tensed languages are less likely to be religious and to take up the short-term costs associated with religiosity. What is likely to drive this behaviour, according to our results, is the relatively lower appeal of the religious rewards for these individuals. Our analysis is based on within country regressions comparing individuals with identical observable characteristics who speak a different language.
    Keywords: Language, Culture, Religiosity
    JEL: D83 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2020–03
  6. By: Yarbrough, Michael W. (John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY))
    Abstract: This essay written for the general public uses my ethnographic research on customary African marriage and same-sex marriage in South Africa to argue that marital status is best understood not as a static category but as the ongoing production of layered social processes.
    Date: 2020–07–25

This nep-evo issue is ©2020 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.