nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2023‒07‒24
seven papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Patience and Comparative Development By Uwe Sunde; Thomas Dohmen; Benjamin Enke; Armin Falk; David Huffman; Gerrit Meyerheim
  2. How Culture Shapes Choices Related to Fertility and Mortality: Causal Evidence at the Swiss Language Border By Lisa Faessler; Rafael Lalive; Charles Efferson
  3. Headhunting and Warfare: Evidence from Austronesia By Boris Gershman; Tinatin Mumladze
  4. Isolating a Culture of Son Preference Among Armenian, Georgian, and Azeri Parents in Soviet-Era Russia By Matthias Schief; Sonja Vogt; Elena Churilova; Charles Efferson
  5. Social Preferences under the Shadow of the Future By Felix Kölle; Simone Quercia; Egon Tripodi
  6. Roots of Inequality By Oded Galor; Marc Klemp; Daniel C. Wainstock
  7. Evolution of semi-Kantian preferences in two-player assortative interactions with complete and incomplete information and plasticity By Laurent Lehmann; Ingela Alger

  1. By: Uwe Sunde; Thomas Dohmen; Benjamin Enke; Armin Falk; David Huffman; Gerrit Meyerheim
    Abstract: This paper studies the relationship between patience and comparative development through a combination of reduced-form analyses and model estimations. Based on a globally representative dataset on time preference in 76 countries, we document two sets of stylized facts. First, patience is strongly correlated with per capita income and the accumulation of physical capital, human capital and productivity. These correlations hold across countries, subnational regions, and individuals. Second, the magnitude of the patience elasticity strongly increases in the level of aggregation. To provide an interpretive lens for these patterns, we analyze an OLG model in which savings and education decisions are endogenous to patience, aggregate production is characterized by capital-skill complementarities, and productivity implicitly depends on patience through a human capital externality. In our model estimations, general equilibrium effects alone account for a non-trivial share of the observed amplification effects, and an extension to human capital externalities can quantitatively match the empirical evidence.
    Keywords: Time Preference, Comparative Development, Factor Accumulation
    JEL: D03 D90 O10 O30 O40
    Date: 2023–01
  2. By: Lisa Faessler; Rafael Lalive; Charles Efferson
    Abstract: Results from cultural evolutionary theory often suggest that social learning can lead cultural groups to differ markedly in the same environment. Put differently, cultural evolutionary processes can in principle stabilise behavioural differences between groups, which in turn could lead selection pressures to vary across cultural groups. Separating the effects of culture from other confounds, however, is often a daunting, sometimes intractable challenge for the working empiricist. To meet this challenge, we exploit a cultural border dividing Switzerland in ways that are independent of institutional, environmental, and genetic variation. Using a regression discontinuity design, we estimate discontinuities at the border in terms of preferences related to fertility and mortality, the two basic components of genetic fitness. We specifically select six referenda related to health and fertility and analyse differences in the proportion of yes votes across municipalities on the two sides of the border. Our results show multiple discontinuities and thus indicate a potential role of culture to shape preferences and choices related to individual health and fertility. These findings further suggest that at least one of the two groups, in order to uphold its cultural values, has supported policies that could impose fitness costs on individuals in the group.
    Keywords: gene-culture coevolution, cultural evolution, social learning, cultural variation, fitness, cultural border, regression discontinuity design
    JEL: Z10 Z13 D72 I18
    Date: 2023
  3. By: Boris Gershman; Tinatin Mumladze
    Abstract: Headhunting is the practice of acquiring human heads for ritual purposes that was historically widespread around the world. We hypothesize that headhunting emerged as a cultural response to frequent inter-tribal warfare and served as a mechanism to train warriors ready to defend their community. The practice was effective since, first, it allowed to verify warrior quality based on performance in headhunting raids and, second, it offered a system of rewards for men to develop and refine warfare skills. We use phylogenetic comparative methods and ethnographic data to empirically investigate this hypothesis in a sample of preindustrial Austronesian societies. Headhunting turns out to be substantially more prevalent in societies exposed to frequent warfare, accounting for shared cultural ancestry and a host of potentially confounding characteristics. Furthermore, Bayesian estimation of correlated evolution models suggests that, consistent with our hypothesis, the adoption of headhunting was driven by increased warfare frequency and the decline of this practice followed a reduction in intergroup conflict.
    Keywords: Austronesia, Conflict, Correlated evolution, Culture, Headhunting, Phylogenetic comparative methods, Supernatural beliefs, Warfare
    JEL: D74 Z12 Z13
    Date: 2023
  4. By: Matthias Schief; Sonja Vogt; Elena Churilova; Charles Efferson
    Abstract: This paper analyzes historical census data from the final Soviet census in 1989. We find that, even in the absence of sex-selective abortions, the fertility decisions of Armenian, Georgian, and Azeri parents living in Russia in the late 1970s and the 1980s were significantly more son-biased than those of other ethnic groups in Russia. This finding suggests that the observed increase in the sex ratio at birth in the Caucasus since the end of the Soviet Union at least partially reflects a deep-rooted cultural preference for sons. Moreover, this result supports one of the key hypotheses of gene-culture coevolution, namely the claim that cultural evolutionary processes can shape selection on the basic components of genetic fitness.
    Keywords: son preference, sex ratio, sex-selective abortions, historical census data, Caucasus, gene-culture coevolution
    JEL: J13 J16 Z10
    Date: 2023
  5. By: Felix Kölle (Univeristy of Cologne); Simone Quercia (University of Verona); Egon Tripodi (Hertie School)
    Abstract: Social interactions predominantly take place under the shadow of the future. Previous literature explains cooperation in indefinitely repeated prisoner’s dilemma as predominantly driven by self-interested strategic considerations. This paper provides a causal test of the importance of social preferences for cooperation, varying the composition of interactions to be either homogeneous or heterogeneous in terms of these preferences. Through a series of pre-registered experiments (N = 1, 074), we show that groups of prosocial individuals achieve substantially higher levels of cooperation. The cooperation gap between prosocial and selfish groups persists even when the shadow of the future is increased to make cooperation attractive for the selfish and when common knowledge about group composition is removed.
    Keywords: cooperation; indefinitely repeated games; prisoner’s dilemma; social preferences; experiment;
    JEL: C73 C91 C92
    Date: 2023–06–30
  6. By: Oded Galor; Marc Klemp; Daniel C. Wainstock
    Abstract: Why does inequality vary across societies? We advance the hypothesis that in a market economy, where earning differentials reflect variations in productive traits among individuals, a significant component of the differences in income inequality across societies can be attributed to variation in societal interpersonal diversity, shaped by the prehistorical out-of-Africa migration. Exploring the roots of inequality within the US population, we find supporting evidence for our hypothesis: variation in income inequality across groups of individuals originating from different ancestral backgrounds can be traced to the degree of diversity of their ancestral populations. This effect is sizable: a move from the lowest to the highest level of diversity in the sample is associated with an increase in the Gini index from the median to the 75th percentile of the inequality distribution.
    Keywords: inequality, diversity, culture, out-of-Africa migration
    JEL: D60 O10 Z10
    Date: 2023
  7. By: Laurent Lehmann (UNIL - Université de Lausanne = University of Lausanne); Ingela Alger (TSE-R - Toulouse School of Economics - UT Capitole - Université Toulouse Capitole - UT - Université de Toulouse - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: We develop a model for the evolution of preferences guiding behavior in pairwise interactions in groupstructured populations. The model uses the conceptual platform of long-term evolution theory and covers different interaction scenarios, including conditional preference expression upon recognition of interactant's type. We apply the model to the evolution of semi-Kantian preferences at the fitness level, which combine self-interest and a Kantian interest evaluating own behavior in terms of consequences for own fitness if the interactant also adopted this behavior. We look for the convergence stable and uninvadable value of the Kantian coefficient, i.e., the weight attached to the Kantian interest, a quantitative trait varying between zero and one. We consider three scenarios: (a) incomplete information; (b) complete information and incomplete plasticity; and (c) complete information and complete plasticity, where individuals can, not only recognize the type of their interaction partner (complete information), but also conditionally express the Kantian coefficient upon it (complete plasticity). For (a), the Kantian coefficient tends to evolve to equal the coefficient of neutral relatedness between interacting individuals; for (b), it evolves to a value that depends on demographic and interaction assumptions, while for (c) individuals become pure Kantians when interacting with individuals of the same type, while they apply the Kantian coefficient that is uninvadable in a panmictic population under complete information when interacting with individuals with a different type. Overall, our model connects several concepts for analysing the evolution of behavior rules for strategic interactions that have been emphasized in different and sometimes isolated literatures.
    Keywords: evolution of semi-Kantian preferences, group-structured populations, fitness, convergence stability, uninvadability, Homo moralis
    Date: 2023–06–26

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