My research

My research focuses on developing a theoretical framework to test the economic effects of recent and ongoing natural selection in human populations. One major area of focus is whether natural selection in some human populations could have been a contributing factor to the transition from the low-growth Malthusian economy of pre-1800 to the modern high-growth economies of today.

There is significant genetic evidence that human populations have undergone recent evolutionary change, and adaptive evolution in humans may be accelerating. More people means more ideas AND more mutations.

It is likely that these changes have economic effects. A more patient population would save and invest more, with storage of agricultural products providing a means by which they could accumulate wealth. A more intelligent population would generate more ideas. Those who are more trusting and have a higher willingness to trade would benefit more from specialisation and the division of labour.

For the papers that will form the bulk of the PhD thesis, my focus is on the mechanisms underlying the process, and not on specific traits. Details of the papers that will form my thesis are below.


“Economic Growth and Evolution: Parental Preferences for Quality and Quantity of Offspring” (forthcoming) Macroeconomic Dynamics (with Boris Baer and Juerg Weber) (ungated pdf): In this paper we examine the model developed in Galor and Moav (2002) Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth. You can find a post describing the paper here.

Working papers

Sexual Selection, Conspicuous Consumption and Economic Growth (with Boris Baer and Juerg Weber) is an examination of the effect of the evolution of conspicuous consumption on economic growth. You can download a poster describing this paper here (pdf) and read a post on my paper here. Coverage of the paper includes Rob Brooks in The Huffington Post and The Conversation, Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling, Steve Sailer, and Matt Ridley in The Wall Street Journal. Paul Frijters has prepared a critique, which you can find here.

Evolution, Fertility and the Ageing Population (with Oliver Richards): We hypothesise that because the heritability of fertility increased after the demographic transition, natural selection should drive an increase in fertility. This may affect projections of the fiscal effects of the “ageing population”. A post giving some background to the paper is here.

Population, Technological Progress and the Evolution of Innovative Potential (with Boris Baer and Juerg Weber): As more people means both more ideas and more mutations, we develop a dual-driver model of evolutionary growth in which both the increasing quantity and evolving innovative potential of the population drives economic growth. My post on the paper is here.

*My research focus has shifted since I started my PhD and this blog. The earlier summary of my research and associated comments are here.


  1. Hi Jason, excellent blog – I wish you well. I wonder if you are going to factor in the influence of diet into your analysis. It would be interesting to see if there are evolutionary effects on the economics of population and the march toward growth economies in the Malthusian era, and what that looks like now, as our diet has changed with processing and additives.

    1. Thanks. The link between diet and growth is something I haven’t invested much time in thinking about. But any dietary change that leads to a higher population leads to more ideas and ultimately more economic growth, so it’s not hard to start thinking about the links.

Comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s