Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New theory explains economic growth in terms of evolutionary biology

03.12.2002


It took an evolutionary leap in the human species to help trigger the change from centuries of economic stagnation to a state of sustained economic growth, according to the first theory that integrates evolutionary biology and economics.

“Until now, economic growth theory did not have implications for evolutionary biology, and evolutionary biology did not have implications for economic growth,” said lead theorist Oded Galor, professor of economics at Brown University.

This new theory, the first of its kind ever proposed in the economics literature, appears as the lead article in the current Quarterly Journal of Economics. It is co-authored by Omer Moav of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.



“The struggle for survival that had characterized most of human existence stimulated a process of natural selection and 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,” the authors wrote in their study.

The evolution of the human brain in the transition to Homo sapiens “increased the evolutionarily optimal investment in offspring’s quality,” said Galor. “This was due to the complementary relationship between brain capacity and the return to investment in human capital.”

The process gave an evolutionary advantage to people who had higher valuation toward offspring’s quality, Galor said. “The subsequently increased prevalence of this genetic trait in the population ultimately permitted the Industrial Revolution to trigger a transition to a state of sustained economic growth.”

The critical natural selection that occurred prior to the Industrial Revolution involved the fundamental tradeoff between child-caring and child-rearing. The “epoch of stagnation” gave an evolutionary advantage to a higher-quality smaller family rather than to lower-quality larger families, Galor said.

“Valuation of quality, through better nourishment and education for children, fed back into technological progress. And as technology advanced, it fed back into more education. Human capital took off. This leap in evolution came to dominate the population as a whole, and centuries of economic stagnation ended.”

The authors attribute acceleration in this evolutionary process to the emergence of the nuclear family that fostered intergenerational links. Prior to the agricultural revolution, 10,000 years ago, people lived among hunter-gatherer tribes that tended to share resources more equally.

“During this hunter-gatherer period, the absence of direct intergenerational links between parental resources and investment in their offspring delayed the evolutionary advantage of a preference for high-quality children,” said the authors.

In fact, according to the theory, a switch back to a quantity emphasis began to take place in the 20th century.

“During the transition from stagnation to growth, once the economic environment improved sufficiently, the evolutionary pressure weakened and the significance of quality for survival declined,” said Galor. The inherent advantage in reproduction of people who highly value a large number of children gradually dominated and their fertility rates ultimately overtook the fertility rates of people who value high-quality children, he said.

“Oded Galor’s tendency to ask big, important questions, to be tackled in ambitious and technically sophisticated models have earned him a well-deserved reputation as one of the most ingenious and interesting growth-theorists of our age,” said Joel Mokyr, professor of economics and history, Northwestern University. Mokyr is a leading expert on the history of technological progress and the Industrial Revolution.

“Galor and Moav have opened a new and potentially very fruitful vein of thinking about the history of economies in the very long run,” said Mokyr. “This pioneering paper is a breakthrough in its use of population dynamics in long-term historical change and in applying Darwinian logic to the history of mankind.”

The predictions of the proposed theory are consistent with the time path of population, technology and income since the emergence of Homo sapiens, said Galor.

“Once biologists identify the genes that control fertility behavior, the predictions of the theory in the context of the evolution of the human species could be tested as well, comparing genetic valuation for quality in hunter-gatherer tribes to those in societies that have experienced the Neolithic revolution,” Galor said.

According to the authors, earlier episodes of technological progress did not generate a “takeoff” because the necessary human evolutionary change had not yet completed its course.

“The population did respond to higher return to education and investment in human capital, but not aggressively enough to generate an acceleration in the rate of technological progress and sustained economic growth,” said Galor.

The theory generates an alternative intriguing prediction, he said.

“It suggests that during the epoch of stagnation, men who were from a physiological viewpoint moderately fertile (men with a moderate sperm count), and who were therefore induced by nature to invest more in the quality of their offspring had an evolutionary advantage over highly fertile individuals,” Galor said. This would suggest that sperm count has declined in the last thousands of years, he said.

The National Science Foundation supported Galor’s research.

Oded Galor | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=246300
http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2002-03/02-040.html

More articles from Business and Finance:

nachricht How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung

nachricht Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

All articles from Business and Finance >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>