Date: Thu Dec 05 2002 - 07:31:59 EST
Distributed December 2, 2002
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Scott Turner
New theory explains economic growth in terms of evolutionary biology
The struggle for survival that characterized most of human existence
stimulated a process of natural selection that conferred an evolutionary
advantage on humans who had a higher genetic predisposition for a careful
rearing of the next generation. This evolutionary change permitted the
Industrial Revolution to trigger a change from an epoch of stagnation to an=20
of sustained economic growth, according to the first theory that integrates=20
fields of evolutionary biology and economic growth. This research by Brown
University economist Oded Galor and Omer Moav from the Hebrew University is=20
lead article in the current Quarterly Journal of Economics.
=A0 =A0 =A0 PROVIDENCE, R.I. - It took an evolutionary leap in the human spe=
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.
=A0 =A0 =A0 "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
=A0 =A0 =A0 This new theory, the first of its kind ever proposed in the econ=
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
=A0 =A0 =A0 "The struggle for survival that had characterized most of human=20
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.
=A0 =A0 =A0 The evolution of the human brain in the transition to Homo sapie=
"increased the evolutionarily optimal investment in offspring's quality," sa=
Galor. "This was due to the complementary relationship between brain capacit=
and the return to investment in human capital."
=A0 =A0 =A0 The process gave an evolutionary advantage to people who had hig=
valuation toward offspring's quality, Galor said. "The subsequently increase=
prevalence of this genetic trait in the population ultimately permitted the
Industrial Revolution to trigger a transition to a state of sustained econom=
=A0 =A0 =A0 The critical natural selection that occurred prior to the Indust=
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,
=A0 =A0 =A0 "Valuation of quality, through better nourishment and education=20=
children, fed back into technological progress. And as technology advanced,=20=
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
=A0 =A0 =A0 The authors attribute acceleration in this evolutionary process=20=
emergence of the nuclear family that fostered intergenerational links. Prior=
the agricultural revolution, 10,000 years ago, people lived among
hunter-gatherer tribes that tended to share resources more equally.
=A0 =A0 =A0 "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-qualit=
children," said the authors.
=A0 =A0 =A0 In fact, according to the theory, a switch back to a quantity em=
began to take place in the 20th century.
=A0 =A0 =A0 "During the transition from stagnation to growth, once the econo=
environment improved sufficiently, the evolutionary pressure weakened and th=
significance of quality for survival declined," said Galor. The inherent
advantage in reproduction of people who highly value a large number of=20
gradually dominated and their fertility rates ultimately overtook the=20
rates of people who value high-quality children, he said.
=A0 =A0 =A0 "Oded Galor's tendency to ask big, important questions, to be ta=
ambitious and technically sophisticated models have earned him a well-deserv=
reputation as one of the most ingenious and interesting growth-theorists of=20
age," said Joel Mokyr, professor of economics and history, Northwestern
University. Mokyr is a leading expert on the history of technological progre=
and the Industrial Revolution.
=A0 =A0 =A0 "Galor and Moav have opened a new and potentially very fruitful=20=
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 i=
long-term historical change and in applying Darwinian logic to the history o=
=A0 =A0 =A0 The predictions of the proposed theory are consistent with the t=
of population, technology and income since the emergence of Homo sapiens, sa=
=A0 =A0 =A0 "Once biologists identify the genes that control fertility behav=
predictions of the theory in the context of the evolution of the human speci=
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.
=A0 =A0 =A0 According to the authors, earlier episodes of technological prog=
not generate a "takeoff" because the necessary human evolutionary change had
not yet completed its course.
=A0 =A0 =A0 "The population did respond to higher return to education and in=
in human capital, but not aggressively enough to generate an acceleration in
the rate of technological progress and sustained economic growth," said Galo=
=A0 =A0 =A0 The theory generates an alternative intriguing prediction, he sa=
=A0 =A0 =A0 "It suggests that during the epoch of stagnation, men who were f=
physiological viewpoint moderately fertile (men with a moderate sperm count)=
and who were therefore induced by nature to invest more in the quality of=20
offspring had an evolutionary advantage over highly fertile individuals,"=20
said. This would suggest that sperm count has declined in the last thousands=
years, he said.
=A0 =A0 =A0 The National Science Foundation supported Galor's research.
News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences - Issue 79 - 30th November, 2002=20
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Fri Dec 06 2002 - 22:52:22 EST