nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2020‒09‒07
five papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. History as Evolution By Nathan Nunn
  2. Evolution of the Family: Theory and Implications for Economics By Alger, Ingela; Cox, Donald
  3. Evolution and Development of the Trade Route in Ladakh: A Case-Study of Rock Carvings By Khushboo Chaturvedi; Varun Sahai
  4. Molecular Genetics, Risk Aversion, Return Perceptions, and Stock Market Participation By Richard Sias; Laura Starks; Harry J. Turtle
  5. The settlers of South Africa and the expanding frontier By Johan Fourie

  1. By: Nathan Nunn
    Abstract: In this chapter, I consider the benefits of viewing history through an evolutionary lens. In recent decades, a field of research has emerged, which builds on foundations from biological evolution to study culture within an evolutionary framework. I begin the chapter by discussing the theory behind cultural evolution and the empirical evidence supporting its ability to explain the history of human societies. I then turn to a discussion of how an evolutionary perspective provides important insights into a range of phenomena within economics, including a deeper understanding of human capital, innovation, gender roles, the consequences of warfare, the effects of market competition, why we observe historical persistence and path dependence, and, most importantly, why sustained economic growth is often so elusive. I end by turning to a summary of a growing body of research within economics that has made progress in improving our understanding of cultural evolution and, thus, contributing to evolutionary disciplines outside of economics.
    JEL: C73 N01 N10 Z1
    Date: 2020–08
  2. By: Alger, Ingela; Cox, Donald
    Abstract: Which parent can be expected to be more altruistic toward their child, the mother or father? All else equal, can we expect older generation members to be more solicitous of younger family members or vice versa? Policy interventions often target recipients by demographic status: more money being put in the hands of mothers, say, or transfers of income from young to old via public pensions. Economics makes predictions about pecuniary incentives and behaviour, but tends to be agnostic about how, say, a post-menopausal grandmother might behave, just because she is a post-menopausal grandmother. Evolutionary theory fills this gap by analysing how preferences of family members emerge from the Darwinian exigencies of “survive and reproduce.” Coin of the realm is so-called “inclusive fitness,” reproductive success of oneself plus that of relatives, weighted by closeness of the relationship. Appending basic biological traits onto considerations of inclusive fitness generates predictions about preferences of family members. A post-menopausal grandmother with a daughter just starting a family is predicted to care more about her daughter than the daughter cares about her, for example. Evolutionary theory predicts that mothers tend to be more altruistic toward children than fathers, and that close relatives would be inclined to provide more support to one another than distant relatives. An original case study is provided, which explains the puzzle of diverging marriage rates by education in terms of heterogeneity in preferences for commitment. Economists are justifiably loathe to invoke preferences to explain trends, since preference-based explanations can be concocted to explain just about anything. But the evolutionary approach does not permit just any invocation of preferences. The dictates of “survive and reproduce” sharply circumscribe the kinds of preference-related arguments that are admissible.
    Date: 2020–08
  3. By: Khushboo Chaturvedi (Amity University, India); Varun Sahai (Amity University, India)
    Abstract: From the beginning of human history trade has been major source of growth of civilization and material culture. Economy was the main crux which caused Diasporas what disseminated cultures and religions on our planet. The Silk Road was one of the first trade routes to join the Eastern and the Western worlds. Ladakh also underwent the same process of evolution of trade although it was a difficult terrain but it provides access to travelers from central Asia and Tibet through its passes. Ladakh was a crossroads of many complexes of routes, providing choices for different sectors connecting Amritsar to Yarkand. Again, from Leh to Yarkand, there were several possible routes all converging at the Karakoram Pass. Comparative small human settlements in oases of Ladakh’s desert rendered hospitality to the travelers being situated as halting station on traditional routes. Indeed, such places (halts) were natural beneficiaries of generating some sort of revenues from travelers against the essential services provided to caravans and groups of traders and travelers. Main halts on these routes are well marked with petro-glyphs right from Kashmir to Yarkand and at major stations with huge rock carving of Buddhist deities. Petro-glyphs, rock carvings, inscriptions and monasteries, mani-walls and stupas found along the trekking routes, linking one place to other, are a clear indication that the routes were in-vogue used by caravan traders; these establishments were used as landmarks or guidepost for travelers. Further, proof is derived from several monumental images of Buddhists deities, which are interpreted as signs of early Buddhist culture. Certainly these images may be the result of the perpetuating tradition of rock-carving that is noticed from China to Rome in ancient time. Nevertheless, the rock images may be taken as signs of the cultural exchange between the initiators, Kashmiri, and the local population. The purpose of this study is to establish the larger cultural and historical contexts of the arts, considering the issues of patronage and art production.
    Keywords: trade, diaspora, silk road, petroglyphs, rock carvings, buddhism, culture, ladakh
    Date: 2020–06
  4. By: Richard Sias; Laura Starks; Harry J. Turtle
    Abstract: We show that molecular variation in DNA related to cognition, personality, health, and body shape, predicts an individual’s equity market participation and risk aversion. Moreover, the molecular genetic endowments predict individuals’ return perceptions, most of which we find to be strikingly biased. The genetic endowments also strongly associate with many of the investor characteristics (e.g., trust, sociability, wealth) shown to explain heterogeneity in equity market participation. Our analysis helps elucidate why financial choices are heritable and how genetic endowments can help explain the links between financial choices, risk aversion, beliefs, and other variables known to explain stock market participation.
    JEL: D87 G11
    Date: 2020–08
  5. By: Johan Fourie (LEAP, Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
    Abstract: The arrival of European settlers in the mid-seventeenth century at the southern tip of Africa profoundly affected the region’s development. They quickly displaced the local Khoesan and began a process of colonisation that would, some might argue, continue until 1994 with the first democratic elections, 342 years after their arrival. This is the story of their migration into the southern African interior. Combining a rich historiography with new quantitative source material – and the story of one family – I show that, despite the political, cultural and religious rhetoric that inspired their migrations, their reason for trekking was at heart economic. Their story is closely tied to the fortunes of those around them: their actions were often both a response to and a cause of events beyond their borders, a dynamic process that continues today.
    Keywords: migration, colonialism, settler, Voortrekker, South Africa
    JEL: N37
    Date: 2020

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