nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2022‒04‒11
seven papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Moral institutions and evolution: In search of equilibria By Leroch, Martin Alois
  2. Inequity Aversion and Limited Foresight in the Repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma By Teresa Backhaus; Yves Breitmoser
  3. Had Keynes Read More Veblen: The Imperative of a Scientific Theory of Human Behavior By Jon D. Wisman
  4. Economics and Econometrics of Gene-Environment Interplay By Pietro Biroli; Titus Galama; Stephanie von Hinke; Hans van Kippersluis; Kevin Thom
  5. Determinant of Social Norms By Voigt, Stefan
  6. Pro-birth policies, missions and fertility : historical evidence from Congo By Catherine Guirkinger; Paola Villar
  7. Econographics By Jonathan Chapman; Mark Dean; Pietro Ortoleva; Erik Snowberg; Colin Camerer

  1. By: Leroch, Martin Alois
    Abstract: After having met severe opposition with its introduction, evolutionary ethics is becoming increasingly popular. One adherent is Ken Binmore, who - extremely simplified - argues that evolution has equipped humans with the inclination to reciprocate, and that via reciprocity moral norms have evolved. While Binmore's theory more or less implicitly rests upon several behavioral assumptions, it lacks a clear empirical foundation. In this paper, I provide a summary of key results from various disciplines related to the core assumptions, namely: i) People behave as if they held other-regarding preferences, ii) Such other-regarding behavior is enforced via reciprocity, iii) Norm-violators are punished, and iv) In the absence of norms, people employ a trial-and-error strategy from which an equilibrium will evolve. While most of these assumptions are well-supported, the application of equilibria to real-world states of the world seems problematic. Rather, human behavior is heterogenous and in constant flux. Further, because morality is merely one institution embedded in a wider set of institutions, the evolutionary pressure does not influence moral norms in isolation. If one institution changes, so will the (theoretical) equilibrium of the institution "morality".
    Date: 2022
  2. By: Teresa Backhaus; Yves Breitmoser
    Abstract: Reanalyzing 12 experiments on the repeated prisoner’s dilemma (PD), we identify three distinct subject types: defectors, cautious cooperators and strong cooperators. The defectors defect with a high probability in every round. Both cooperating types play semigrim behavior strategies. This simple three-type mixture fits significantly better than any model consisting of combinations of (generalized) pure strategies from the literature, which we fitted at the treatment level (considering 1051 pure-strategy mixtures), even when we use constant specifications of the three types across all experiments. The three best fitting strategies vary slightly across experiments, however. Structurally analyzing these strategies, we find that subjects have limited foresight and subjectively assign utility values to the four states (cc,cd,dc,dd) of the supergame, which relate to the original stage-game payoffs in a manner compatible with inequity aversion. This subjectively transforms the prisoners dilemma game into a coordination game and can reliably explain the strategies used across all 12 experiments and 32 treatments.
    Keywords: Repeated game, Behavior, Tit-for-tat, Mixed strategy, Memory, Belief-free equilibrium, Laboratory experiment
    JEL: C72 C73 C92 D12
    Date: 2022–03
  3. By: Jon D. Wisman
    Abstract: John Maynard Keynes rejected the strict assumption of rational behavior embraced by neoclassical economists, providing causal importance to instincts, habits, and intuition. However, he mostly failed, as did they, to incorporate in his analysis that human decisions are frequently, if not most often, dependent upon the decisions of others. Further, and more particularly, he failed to grant importance to the fact that humans struggle for the recognition and social status necessary for social and self-respect. Thorstein Veblen also rejected the neoclassical expression of rational behavior, and 37 years before Keynes's The General Theory, focused upon interdependence in decision making and status competition by drawing upon Charles Darwin's theory of evolutionary biology to ground in science his theory of human behavior. Had Keynes read Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), he may have recognized the need in his own theory to account for interpersonal decision making and especially of incorporating the struggle for social recognition and status. This article examines how drawing upon aspects of Veblen's work would have enriched the explanatory power of Keynes's economics as well as that of those engaged in furthering Keynes's project. It concludes with reflections on the necessity that economic analysis, and social science generally, be constructed upon a scientifically-grounded conception of human behavior.
    Keywords: Marginal propensity to consume, Conspicuous consumption, Darwinism, Instinct, Status, Emulation
    JEL: B22 B41 E12 E71
    Date: 2022
  4. By: Pietro Biroli; Titus Galama; Stephanie von Hinke; Hans van Kippersluis; Kevin Thom
    Abstract: Economists and social scientists have debated the relative importance of nature (one’s genes) and nurture (one’s environment) for decades, if not centuries. This debate can now be informed by the ready availability of genetic data in a growing number of social science datasets. This paper explores the potential uses of genetic data in economics, with a focus on estimating the interplay between nature (genes) and nurture (environment). We discuss how economists can benefit from incorporating genetic data into their analyses even when they do not have a direct interest in estimating genetic effects. We argue that gene–environment (G×E) studies can be instrumental for (i) testing economic theory, (ii) uncovering economic or behavioral mechanisms, and (iii) analyzing treatment effect heterogeneity, thereby improving the understanding of how (policy) interventions affect population subgroups. We introduce the reader to essential genetic terminology, develop a conceptual economic model to interpret gene–environment interplay, and provide practical guidance to empirical researchers.
    Date: 2022–02–25
  5. By: Voigt, Stefan
    Abstract: It is now abundantly clear that social norms channel behavior and impact economic development. This insight leads to the question: How do social norms evolve? This survey examines research that relies on geography to explain the development of social norms, and suggests that religion and family organization are potential mediators. It turns out that many social norms are either directly or indirectly determined by geography and can, hence, be considered largely time invariant. Given that successful economic development presupposes the congruence between formal institutions and social norms, this insight is highly relevant for all policy interventions designed to facilitate economic development.
    Keywords: social norms,internal institutions,informal institutions,Institutional Economics,geography,religion,family
    JEL: A13 D90 K00 O10 Z10
    Date: 2022
  6. By: Catherine Guirkinger (Center for Research in the Economics of Development, University of Namur); Paola Villar
    Abstract: Did colonial powers shape fertility patterns in their colonies? We investigate this question in the context of the Belgian Congo. Starting in the late 1920s, several colonial powers in Africa feared depopulation of their colonies and designed pro-birth policies. The Belgian state heavily relied on Catholic nuns to implement these policies in the Congo. Using a demographic survey conducted in the 1970s in seven major cities, we recovered the individual birth calendars of 30,000 women born between 1900 and 1948, under colonial rule. In addition we digitized high-quality territory level information on fertility by cohort in the 1950s. We rely on unique historical and archival material to reconstruct temporal and geographic heterogeneity in exposure to missionary presence and the type of activities performed at the station level. We find a positive effect of Catholic nuns on fertility. In contrast, Catholic male missionaries have no detectable impact on fertility and Protestant missionaries have a clear negative impact. In terms of mechanisms, we argue that progress in general health are unlikely to explain, alone, the rise in fertility. Another likely channel was the promotion of an ideal of domesticity where women are confined to their role of mother and wife. Finally, using Demographic and Health Survey data, we find some trace of colonial mission’s influence on fertility patterns today.
    Date: 2022–03
  7. By: Jonathan Chapman (NYUAD); Mark Dean (Columbia University); Pietro Ortoleva (Princeton University); Erik Snowberg (Caltech); Colin Camerer (Caltech)
    Abstract: We study the pattern of correlations across a large number of behavioral regularities, with the goal of creating an empirical basis for more comprehensive theories of decision- making. We elicit 21 behaviors using an incentivized survey on a representative sample (n = 1,000) of the U.S. population. Our data show a clear and relatively simple structure underlying the correlations between these measures. Using principal components analysis, we reduce the 21 variables to six components corresponding to clear clusters of high correlations. We examine the relationship between these components, cognitive ability, and demographics. Common extant theories explain some of the patterns in our data, but each theory we examine is also inconsistent with some patterns.
    Keywords: Econographics, Reciprocity, Altruism, Trust, Costly Third-Party Punishment, Inequality Aversion, Risk Aversion, Common-Ratio Effect, Endowment Effect, WTA, WTP, Ambiguity Aversion
    JEL: C90 D64 D81 D90 D91
    Date: 2020–11

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