Insights into Social Life Using Evolutionary Basics and Econ 101


Donald Cox. 2023. Insights into Social Life Using Evolutionary Basics and Econ 101. Journal of Legal Economics 29(1–2): pp. 3–34.

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Based on the keynote address presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Economic and Financial Experts (March 2, 2023, Las Vegas, NV).

Standard economics treats tastes as given, but where do tastes come from? For evolutionary economists, the wellspring of preferences is the drive to survive and reproduce. This view opens novel pathways for addressing economic questions, notably those connected to social life and demographics. Where does nepotism come from? Why do men make riskier investments compared to women? Why are siblings allies one moment and rivals the next? Simple evolutionary principles can lend insight into diverse issues such as: violence; adolescent risk taking; sexual behavior; preferences for a mate and marriage; investing in children; extended families; and interactions between genetic and cultural forces. Evolutionary concepts are founded on ideas economists are familiar with, such as weighing benefits versus costs. Combining economics with evolutionary insights can expand the domain for explaining and predicting behavior.


Donald Cox

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