nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2022‒12‒05
six papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State By Kung, James Kai-sing; Özak, Ömer; Putterman, Louis; Shi, Shuang
  2. The restart effect in social dilemmas shows humans are self-interested not altruistic By Burton-Chellew, Maxwell
  3. Population science implications of the inclusion of stillbirths in demographic estimates of child mortality By Hathi, Payal
  4. Anomalies or Expected Behaviors? Understanding Stated Preferences and Welfare Implications in Light of Contemporary Behavioral Theory By Leonhard K. Lades; Ewa Zawojska; Robert J. Johnston; Nick Hanley; Liam Delaney; Mikołaj Czajkowski
  5. Selection, Patience, and the Interest Rate By Radoslaw Stefanski; Alex Trew
  6. Structural Change, Elite Capitalism, and the Emergence of Labor Emancipation By Boris Gershman; Quamrul H. Ashraf; Francesco Cinnirella; Oded Galor; Erik Hornung

  1. By: Kung, James Kai-sing; Özak, Ömer (Southern Methodist University); Putterman, Louis; Shi, Shuang
    Abstract: We propose and test empirically a theory describing the endogenous formation and persistence of mega-states, using China as an example. We suggest that the relative timing of the emergence of agricultural societies, and their distance from each other, set off a race between their autochthonous state-building projects, which determines their extent and persistence. Using a novel dataset describing the historical presence of Chinese states, prehistoric development, the diffusion of agriculture, and migratory distance across 1-degree x 1-degree grid cells in eastern Asia, we find that cells that adopted agriculture earlier and were close to Erlitou -- the earliest political center in eastern Asia -- remained under Chinese control for longer and continue to be a part of China today. By contrast, cells that adopted agriculture early and were located further from Erlitou developed into independent states, as agriculture provided the fertile ground for state-formation, while isolation provided time for them to develop and confront the expanding Chinese empire. Our study sheds important light on why eastern Asia kept reproducing a mega-state in the area that became China and on the determinants of its borders with other states.
    Date: 2022–06–04
  2. By: Burton-Chellew, Maxwell
    Abstract: Do economic games show evidence of altruistic or self-interested motivations in humans? A huge body of empirical work has found contrasting results. While participants routinely make costly decisions that help strangers, consistent with an evolutionary novel form of altruism, participants also typically learn to pay fewer costs with experience, consistent with self-interested individuals adapting to an unfamiliar environment. Key to resolving this debate is explaining the famous ‘restart effect’, a puzzling enigma whereby failing cooperation in experiments can be briefly rescued by a surprise restart. Here we show that this canonical result, which is often assumed to be evidence of altruism, can be entirely removed, replaced, or even reversed depending on experimental design. Specifically, the restart effect (1) disappears when reputational benefits to cooperation are fully removed, consistent with strategically motivated, self-interested, cooperation; (2) can be replaced by an irrational restart that benefits no-one if individuals are grouped with computers, consistent with confusion; and (3) can even be reversed, so that contributions gradually increase rather than decrease towards the end of the game, if the contributions of the computerized groupmates are programmed accordingly. These results show that the restart effect is driven by a mixture of self-interested and irrational beliefs about the game’s payoffs and not altruism. Consequently, our results suggest that economic games have often been measuring self-interested but confused behaviours and reject the idea that conventional theories of evolution cannot explain the results of economic games.
    Date: 2022–06–12
  3. By: Hathi, Payal
    Abstract: Similar factors cause both early neonatal mortality and stillbirth, and most stillbirths are preventable. Yet stillbirths are not counted in commonly used summary measures of mortality, such as life expectancy and child mortality. The bioethics literature has recognized that this is paradoxical because it implies that a population in which many babies are stillborn is equally healthy as one in which those same babies survive. However, the demography literature fails to account for stillbirth despite the field’s primary aim of describing population processes. In this article, I show that current thinking about how to measure mortality mischaracterizes population health challenges and contributes to the neglect of stillbirth measurement. To address these shortcomings, I examine stillbirth data from reproductive calendars in Demographic and Health Surveys across 42 countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I find that stillbirth undermeasurement is not uniform across places: the places with worse early life health may have poorer measurement of stillbirth than places with better early life health. Through the calculation of “stillbirth-adjusted” infant and neonatal mortality rates, I demonstrate that it is possible to implement population health measures that include stillbirth. Adjusted rates show that a substantial portion of early-life mortality is left out of traditional demographic mortality measures. These findings have implications for population theory, forcing us to reconsider underlying assumptions in demographic measurement. They also allow for a more complete assessment of the health of societies.
    Date: 2022–08–28
  4. By: Leonhard K. Lades (Environmental Policy & Geary Institute, University College Dublin); Ewa Zawojska (University of Warsaw, Faculty of Economic Sciences); Robert J. Johnston (George Perkins Marsh Institute and Department of Economics, Clark University); Nick Hanley (Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow); Liam Delaney (Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, The London School of Economics and Political Science); Mikołaj Czajkowski (University of Warsaw, Faculty of Economic Sciences)
    Abstract: The stated preference literature contains an expansive body of research on behavioral anomalies, typically understood as response patterns that are inconsistent with standard neoclassical choice theory. While the literature often implies that anomalous behaviors are distinct to stated preferences, widespread evidence of similar patterns across real-world settings raises the potential for an alternative interpretation. We argue that these anomalies might actually reflect behaviors that are to be expected once deviations from the standard economic model and behavioral reactions to the choice architecture in stated preference surveys are considered. The article reviews and organizes the evidence of so-called “anomalous” stated preference behaviors within the context of behavioral science to provide guidance for applied welfare economics. We coordinate evidence on these anomalies using a typology grounded in behavioral science, which groups non-standard behaviors into: non-standard preferences, non-standard beliefs, and non-standard decision-making. We apply this typology to organize the evidence, clarify nomenclature, and understand the implications of non-standard behaviors in stated preference studies for applied welfare analysis. Observing the systematic and common nature of these behaviors in actual and hypothetical settings, we outline possibilities to overcome associated challenges for applied welfare analysis, by adapting new frameworks for welfare analysis proposed within behavioral science.
    Keywords: anomalies, behavioral science, non-standard behaviors, stated preferences, welfare analysis
    JEL: D61 D91 Q51
    Date: 2022
  5. By: Radoslaw Stefanski; Alex Trew
    Abstract: The interest rate has been falling for centuries. A process of natural selection that leads to increasing societal patience is key to explaining this decline. Three observations support this mechanism: patience varies across individuals, is inter-generationally persistent, and is positively related to fertility. A calibrated dynamic, heterogenous-agent model of fertility permits us to isolate the quantitative contribution of this mechanism. Selection can explain most of the decline in the interest rate, a fact that is robust to a number of model extensions. Quantitative implications are consistent with other facts, such as the steady increase in the investment rate since 1300.
    Keywords: Interest rates; selection; fertility; patience; heterogenous agents
    JEL: E21 E43 J11 N30 O11
    Date: 2022–07
  6. By: Boris Gershman; Quamrul H. Ashraf; Francesco Cinnirella; Oded Galor; Erik Hornung
    Abstract: This study argues that the decline of coercive labor institutions over the course of industrialization was partly driven by complementarity between physical capital and effective labor in manufacturing. Given that it is difficult to extract labor effort in care-intensive industrial tasks through monitoring and punishment, capital-owning elites ultimately chose to emancipate workers to induce their supply of effective labor and, thus, boost the return to physical capital. This mechanism is empirically examined in the context of serf emancipation in nineteenth-century Prussia. Exploiting a plausibly exogenous source of variation in proto-industrialization across Prussian regions, the analysis finds that, consistent with the proposed hypothesis, the initial abundance of elite-owned capital contributed to a higher intensity of subsequent serf emancipation and the elites’ willingness to accept emancipation in exchange for lower redemption payments.
    Keywords: Labor coercion, serfdom, emancipation, industrialization, capital accumulation, effective labor, nineteenth-century Prussia
    JEL: J24 J47 N13 N33 O14 O15 O43
    Date: 2022

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