Evolving Economics

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47 posts · 47,951 views

I am an Australian economist and am completing a PhD at the intersection of economics and evolutionary biology. This a blog of my thoughts on economics, evolution and those areas in between. You can also find me on twitter at http://twitter.com/jasonacollins

Jason Collins
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  • August 29, 2013
  • 08:05 AM
  • 271 views

Economic cosmology – Equilibrium

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Although most of my interest in integrating evolutionary biology into economics concerns treating people as evolved (or evolving) animals, I consider that economists can also learn a lot from the dynamic analysis of biological systems. This thought is shared by John Gowdy and colleagues and is the subject of their third economic cosmology, equilibrium, in their article Economic cosmology […]The post Economic cosmology – Equilibrium appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

John M. Gowdy, Denise E. Dollimore, David Sloan Wilson, & Ulrich Witt. (2013) Economic cosmology and the evolutionary challenge. Journal of Economic Behavior . DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.009  

  • August 26, 2013
  • 08:05 AM
  • 252 views

Economic cosmology – The invisible hand

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Adam Smith’s concept of the invisible hand is one of the more abused ideas in economics. Mentioned only once in The Wealth of Nations, and only then in the context of preferring domestic to foreign industry, the invisible hand has come to represent the idea that self-interest can improve the common good. The following phrase […]The post Economic cosmology – The invisible hand appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

John M. Gowdy, Denise E. Dollimore, David Sloan Wilson, & Ulrich Witt. (2013) Economic cosmology and the evolutionary challenge. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.009  

  • August 20, 2013
  • 08:14 AM
  • 252 views

Economic cosmology – The rational egotistical individual

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

In debates about group selection, the social sciences have recently become a common battleground. From Jonathan Haidt’s use of group selection to explain “groupish” traits in humans, to some of the recent rumblings about cultural group selection (as expressed in a debate triggered by Steven Pinker), and even at last years Consilience Conference, group selection has […]The post Economic cosmology – The rational egotistical individual appeared first on Evolving Econo........ Read more »

John M. Gowdy, Denise E. Dollimore, David Sloan Wilson, & Ulrich Witt. (2013) Economic cosmology and the evolutionary challenge. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.009  

  • August 12, 2013
  • 08:58 AM
  • 363 views

Four reasons why evolutionary theory might not add value to economics

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

In the lead article to a recent Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization special issue, Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy, David Sloan Wilson and John Gowdy examined four potential reasons why someone may not need to consult an evolutionary framework in examining economic and policy questions. The four arguments are riffs on […]The post Four reasons why evolutionary theory might not add value to economics appeared first on Evolving Econo........ Read more »

  • July 9, 2013
  • 08:55 AM
  • 271 views

Grandparents affect social mobility

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

In his research on social mobility using surnames, Gregory Clark has found lower levels of social mobility than many other studies. Clark has defended this finding on the basis that analysis of social mobility across a single generation or using a single variable will overestimate it. Clark writes: Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look [...]The post Grandparents affect social mobility appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

  • July 4, 2013
  • 08:02 AM
  • 262 views

Economic growth and evolution: Parental preference for quality and quantity of offspring

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

My first publication, Economic Growth and Evolution: Parental Preference for Quality and Quantity of Offspring, has just been released electronically in Macroeconomic Dynamics (ungated pdf here). With my co-authors Boris Baer and Juerg Weber, we simulate and extend Oded Galor and Omer Moav’s seminal paper Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth (ungated working paper [...]The post Economic growth and evolution: Parental preference for quality and quantity of offspring appeared........ Read more »

  • June 19, 2013
  • 08:10 AM
  • 261 views

When your neighbour wins the lottery

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

I’m not sure if the format of the Dutch postcode lottery is common, but it certainly creates some interesting incentives. In this lottery, a random postcode is drawn from the 430,000 postcodes in the Netherlands, with each postcode having, on average, 19 households. Each person in that postcode who has purchased a ticket in the [...]The post When your neighbour wins the lottery appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

  • April 22, 2013
  • 06:56 AM
  • 351 views

Deep Rationality: The Evolutionary Economics of Decision Making

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Even though I consider that I am across the literature at the boundary of economics and evolutionary biology, now and then an article pops up that I somehow missed. The latest article of this type is a 2009 article by Douglas Kenrick and colleagues, titled (as is this post) Deep Rationality: The Evolutionary Economics of Decision Making. [...]The post Deep Rationality: The Evolutionary Economics of Decision Making appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

Kenrick, D., Griskevicius, V., Sundie, J., Li, N., Li, Y., & Neuberg, S. (2009) Deep Rationality: The Evolutionary Economics of Decision Making. Social Cognition, 27(5), 764-785. DOI: 10.1521/soco.2009.27.5.764  

  • April 8, 2013
  • 07:22 AM
  • 281 views

The evolution of happiness

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

When we experience positive events, we feel happy. But happiness adjusts, with the effects of a positive event normally short-lived. Over the long-term, happiness tends to float around a stable mean. Happiness is also strongly related to our position relative to our peers. How happy we are with our income depends on everyone else’s income. [...]The post The evolution of happiness appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

Rayo, L., & Becker, G. (2007) Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness. Journal of Political Economy, 115(2), 302-337. DOI: 10.1086/516737  

  • April 1, 2013
  • 09:16 AM
  • 276 views

Economics from a biological viewpoint

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

One of the earlier advocates of using evolutionary biology in economics was Jack Hirshleifer, a professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Hirshleifer was author of The Dark Side of the Force: Economic Foundations of Conflict Theory, which includes evolutionary analysis of cooperation and conflict, and some discussion of the unification of law, [...]The post Economics from a biological viewpoint appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

Hirshleifer, J. (1977) Economics from a Biological Viewpoint. The Journal of Law and Economics, 20(1), 1. DOI: 10.1086/466891  

  • March 27, 2013
  • 09:08 AM
  • 286 views

Using the Malthusian model to measure technology

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Underlying much of Ashraf and Galor’s analysis of genetic diversity and economic development is a Malthusian model of the world. The Malthusian model, as the name suggests, originates in the work of Thomas Malthus (pictured). Malthus had the misfortune of providing an excellent description of the world across millennia, just at the point at which the model [...]The post Using the Malthusian model to measure technology appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

Ashraf, Q., & Galor, O. (2011) Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch. American Economic Review, 101(5), 2003-2041. DOI: 10.1257/aer.101.5.2003  

  • January 14, 2013
  • 07:41 AM
  • 295 views

O-ring and foolproof sectors

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

In my last post, I described Kremer’s O-ring theory of economic development. Kremer’s insight was that if production in an economy consists of many discrete tasks and failure in any one of those tasks can ruin the final output, small differences in skills can drive large differences in output between firms. This can lead to [...]The post O-ring and foolproof sectors appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

  • January 11, 2013
  • 05:37 AM
  • 314 views

Kremer’s O-ring theory of economic development

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

The latest issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization has a new paper by Garett Jones (ungated version here) on the  O-ring theory of economic development. Its been floating around as a working paper for a few years, so its nice to see it get a home. But before I post about that paper, I thought [...]The post Kremer’s O-ring theory of economic development appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

Kremer, M. (1993) The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108(3), 551-575. DOI: 10.2307/2118400  

  • November 16, 2012
  • 12:46 AM
  • 353 views

The decline in intelligence?

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Two papers in which Gerald Crabtree argues that human intelligence has declined since a peak thousands of years ago (Part I and Part II) have been the subject of the popular science media rounds over the last week (such as this piece in The Independent). Crabtree’s argument has two components. The first is that intelligence is fragile and [...]The post The decline in intelligence? appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »

  • October 16, 2012
  • 06:45 AM
  • 561 views

Nobel prizes and marriage markets

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

The committee for selecting the 2012 winners of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (remember, it is not an original Nobel Prize) seems to have done a better job than the Peace Prize Committee. Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapely have been awarded the prize ”for the theory of stable allocations [...]... Read more »

Gale, D., & Shapley, L. (1962) College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage. The American Mathematical Monthly, 69(1), 9. DOI: 10.2307/2312726  

  • September 24, 2012
  • 05:52 AM
  • 386 views

Socioeconomic status versus fitness

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

One common explanation for fertility declines over the last 200 years is that parents have shifted to investing in quality of children, rather than quantity. What is often not made clear is that this quality-quantity trade-off has two dimensions. The first trade-off relates to socioeconomic status (SES), with greater numbers of children resulting in less investment in [...]... Read more »

  • August 30, 2012
  • 08:44 AM
  • 456 views

Does equality increase conspicuous consumption?

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

An article in the European Business Review has put me onto an interesting paper by Nailya Ordabayeva and Pierre Chandon in the Journal of Consumer Research. The crux of the paper and article is that conspicuous consumption may be higher in a more equal society as it provides an opportunity for a larger increase in [...]... Read more »

  • July 7, 2012
  • 12:35 AM
  • 554 views

Conspicuous consumption and poverty traps

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Poverty is no barrier to conspicuous consumption. As Banerjee and Duflo wrote in Poor Economics: One hidden assumption in our description of the poverty trap is that the poor eat as much as they can. … Yet, this is not what we see. Most people living with less than 99 cents a day do not [...]... Read more »

  • May 11, 2012
  • 07:06 AM
  • 550 views

The genetic architecture of economic and political preferences

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Evidence from twin studies implies that economic and political traits have a significant heritable component. That is, some of the variation between people is attributable to genetic variation. Despite this, there has been a failure to demonstrate that the heritability can be attributed to specific genes. Candidate gene studies, in which a single gene (or [...]... Read more »

Benjamin DJ, Cesarini D, van der Loos MJ, Dawes CT, Koellinger PD, Magnusson PK, Chabris CF, Conley D, Laibson D, Johannesson M.... (2012) The genetic architecture of economic and political preferences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 22566634  

  • February 29, 2012
  • 07:21 AM
  • 592 views

Why do married men earn more?

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

Even after controlling for observable traits such as IQ, married men earn more. Bryan Caplan suggests there are three economic explanations for this male marriage premium: 1. Ability bias: Qualities that make a man attractive to a woman are also attractive to employers. 2. Human capital: Marriage makes men more productive. 3. Signalling: Marriage signals [...]... Read more »

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