My research

I completed a PhD at the University of Western Australia. My thesis can be downloaded here, although some of the chapters that make up the thesis were published and are listed below.


“Economic Growth and Evolution: Parental Preferences for Quality and Quantity of Offspring” (2014) Macroeconomic Dynamics 18, pp. 1773-1796 (with Boris Baer and Juerg Weber) (ungated pdf): In this paper we look at 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.

Sexual Selection, Conspicuous Consumption and Economic Growth (2015) Journal of Bioeconomics 17(2), pp. 189-206 (with Boris Baer and Juerg Weber) (ungated working paper): We examine the effect of the evolution of conspicuous consumption on economic growth. You can read a post on my paper here. Coverage of the paper includes Tom Whipple in The Times, Sarah Griffiths in The Daily Mail, Rob Brooks in The Huffington Post and The Conversation, Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling, and Matt Ridley in The Wall Street Journal. And Paul Frijters has prepared a critique of an earlier version, which you can find here.

Sperm use economy of honeybee (Apis mellifera) queens (2016) Ecology and Evolution (with Boris Baer, Kristiina Maalaps and Susanne P. A. den Boer)

Economics in Evolutionary Biology: A Review (2016) Economic Record (with Boris Baer and Juerg Weber) (ungated working paper): A review of how evolutionary biology has been incorporated into economic thinking.

Working papers

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.

6 thoughts on “My research

  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.

  2. Hi Jason,
    I have been leafing through your blogs as part of a growing interest in the relationship between evolutionary genetic biology and social mobility and “success” in education. Having moved from the “traditional middle class” to a quasi elite position, even in retirement I had always believed that the education tools of the immediate post war period (i.e. the 11+ and free places in Grammar and Public Day-Schools) were solely responsible for the elevation of myself and many peers. Only now, having had a career regulated entirely by the search for an evidence base for everything, am I driven to question the mechanisms of my own progression and start reading about the evidence in social rather than medical science.
    I looked back to my origins in the mid 19th century (Pit deputy, joiner and clerk), and had always thought of my origins as “humble” and working class. However, more detailed enquiry revealed that the pitman had his own farm, the clerk was also a celebrated classical organist, and the training for joiners at that time included a year at the Heriot-Watt with exams in architecture, engineering and furniture design.
    I also found the effect of significant noise moving my antecedents up and down the social ladder. First the massive skills shortage in the professional classes following the Great War which massively increased opportunity, and then the downward tumble of many families during the great depression.
    I am probably only here because of the depression which deprived my father of a Public School place and he found himself as a scholarship boy in a Grammar School, (then as now one of the UKs top flight institutions). This simple fact may well have saved his life, because he joined up in the RAF in 1939, and unlike his contemporaries from Public Schools with OTCs, he was made to wait as a junior aircraftsman doing guard duties while they, as Officers were trained, flew, and died. Grammar school boys were “other ranks” and by the time he went on operational flying in 1942 the casualty rate in II Group Bomber Command (for each operation) had fallen to only 20%. –A situation which, for the second world war uniquely paralleled the social evolution in the trenches 25 years before.
    In the 50’s I came third in the 11+ in Kent and went free of charge to a well known South London public school, probably the only time when such institutions had a full range of backgrounds, from Maharajas to bus drivers, because of the selection, they were rewarded with the highest results in the then league tables at any time in their history. I coasted through the whole process getting bottom in classwork and top in exams. got 3 good Alevels just after my 17th birthday, and launched into an unintended academic carreer ultimately retiring from a Senior Academic Post in one of the top few institutions.
    This n=1 study demonstrates nearly every aspect of recent understanding of genetics and social mobility, where social position oscillates about a genetic mean of relative success or otherwise, heavily affected by massive environmental factors. I suspect this story is repeated many times by post war baby-boomers.
    My chief concern now is that the educational tools, which I probably didn’t need as much as others,are no longer available. In particular free further education is dying of starvation, a relatively cheap organ of educational improvement, where the motivated are taught by the motivated. There aren’t the Mechanic’s Institutes anymore where one of my predecessors stepped on the ladder from railway fireman to Professor and senior government advisor.
    I worry that these institutions have declined through lack of demand/motivation. We do not know whether the reason for this is cultural or genetic. There is just not enough evidence yet to prove or disprove a tendency to revert to the mean. We are not allowed to consider genetic selection separating classes but it might be causing a two way split. Only a change in cultural values could bring us back to the Plowman/Bard, but then he was a HMRC man masquerading as a serf!
    What happened to my father after the war and a full tour of operations, you may ask? Oh he went by very hard work from humble clerk to senior trader in a merchant bank.


  3. Hi Jason, it has been a fruitful intellectual endeavor to delve into your writings. Among other topics, I am quite interested in the evolutionary dynamics of inflation, that is, why developing countries tend to have higher average inflation records than developed nations, to which institutions-related approaches have much to say. Still, I find that an evolutionary approach might provide a more coherent larger story than the ones we have available, so that developing countries may escape the fate of being simply a “deviation” from a successful story given some inherent inflationary bias in their economic structure.

    However, what brings me to contact you is connected to another curiosity of mine. I noticed that you apply your research to your consulting practice and, as a part-time consultant, I was wondering how you manage to fit this “alternative” economic thinking to your business. I do not know if this is something you are interested in sharing with your audience, but I am certain it would be very enlightening to many practitioners that do not feel “fit” in the hardcore mainstream approach.

    So, once again, congratulations on your thesis approval and on this excellent blog of yours.



    1. Hi Andre,

      Sorry for the slow response. For me it has largely been a case of finding clients who genuinely want to know the answer to a question – rather than the usual justification for their already established answer or actions. Those clients are rare, but exist.

      The other window has been through those who are looking for a behavioural economics approach. Because that in itself is new to most clients, it’s possible to take other heterodox approaches when working with them – there is no standard that they are already wedded to.

      I wouldn’t say I’ve been hugely successful in mixing the two however, and I’m about to take a new career tack.



  4. You might be interested to get hold of a new book on behavioural economics. The author is Sanjit Dhami and the book’s title is ‘The foundations of behavioural economic analysis’. It’s published by Oxford University Press and at 1760 pages it covers just about everything.

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