HUMAN EVOLUTION & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

This research explores the interaction between human evolution and the process of economic development, advancing the hypothesis that the forces of natural selection played a significant role in the evolution of the world economy from stagnation to growth.  The theory suggests that the Malthusian pressures have acted as the key determinant of population size and conceivably, via natural selection, have shaped the composition of the population as well. Lineages of individuals whose traits were complementary to the economic environment generated higher levels of income, and thus a larger number of surviving offspring and the gradual increase in the representation of their traits in the population contributed to the process of development and the takeoff from stagnation to growth.

EVOLUTION OF PREFERENCES FOR QUALITY OVER QUANTITY OF OFFSPRING

Galor, O., & Moav, O. (2002). Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(4), 1133-1191.

This research develops an evolutionary growth theory that captures the interplay between the evolution of mankind and economic growth since the emergence of the human species. The theory suggests that the struggle for survival that had characterized most of human existence generated an evolutionary advantage to human traits that were complementary to the growth process, triggering the takeoff from an epoch of stagnation to sustained economic growth.

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EVOLUTION OF TIME PREFERENCE

Galor, O., & Özak, Ö. (2016). The agricultural origins of time preference. American Economic Review, 106(10), 3064-3103.

This research explores the origins of observed differences in time preference across countries and regions. Exploiting a natural experiment associated with the expansion of suitable crops for cultivation in the course of the Columbian Exchange, the research establishes that pre-industrial agro-climatic characteristics which were conducive to higher return to agricultural investment triggered selection, adaptation, and learning processes that generated a persistent positive effect on the prevalence of long-term orientation in the contemporary era.

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EVOLUTION OF RISK AVERSION & ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

Galor, O., & Michalopoulos, S. (2012). Evolution and the growth process: Natural selection of entrepreneurial traits. Journal of Economic Theory, 147(2), 759-780.

This research suggests that a Darwinian evolution of entrepreneurial spirit played a significant role in the process of economic development and the dynamics of inequality within and across societies. The study argues that entrepreneurial spirit evolved non-monotonically in the course of human history. In early stages of development, risk-tolerant, growth promoting traits generated an evolutionary advantage and their increased representation accelerated the pace of technological progress and the process of economic development. In mature stages of development, however, risk-averse traits gained an evolutionary advantage, diminishing the growth potential of advanced economies and contributing to convergence in economic growth across countries.

 EVOLUTION OF LOSS AVERSION

This research explores the origins of loss aversion and the variation in its prevalence across regions, nations and ethnic group. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that the evolution of loss aversion in the course of human history can be traced to the adaptation of individuals to the asymmetric eects of climatic shocks on reproductive success during the Malthusian epoch. Exploiting variations in the degree of loss aversion among second generation migrants in Europe and the US, as well as across precolonial ethnic groups, the research establishes that consistent with the predictions of the theory, individuals and ethnic groups that are originated in regions in which climatic conditions tended to be spatially correlated, and thus shocks were aggregate in nature, are characterized by greater intensity of loss aversion, while descendants of regions marked by climatic volatility have greater propensity towards loss-neutrality.

 

NATURAL SELECTION OF PREDISPOSITION TOWARDS CHILD QUALITY

Galor, O., & Klemp, M. (2019). Human Genealogy Reveals a Selective Advantage to Moderate Fecundity. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3(5), 853-857.

Life-history theory suggests that the level of fecundity of each organism reflects the effect of the trade-off between the quantity and quality of offspring on its long-run reproductive success. The present research provides evidence that moderate fecundity was conducive to long-run reproductive success in humans. Using a reconstructed genealogy for nearly half a million individuals in Quebec during the 1608–1800 period, the study establishes that, while high fecundity was associated with a larger number of children, perhaps paradoxically, moderate fecundity maximized the number of descendants after several generations. Moreover, the analysis further suggests that evolutionary forces decreased the level of fecundity in the population over this period, consistent with an additional finding that the level of fecundity that maximized long-run reproductive success was below the population mean. The research identifies several mechanisms that contributed to the importance of moderate fecundity for long-run reproductive success. It suggests that, while individuals with lower fecundity had fewer children, the observed hump-shaped effect of fecundity on long-run reproductive success reflects the beneficial effects of lower fecundity on various measures of child quality, such as marriageability and literacy, and thus on the reproductive success of each child.

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