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Population Thinking and Evolutionary Economic Analysis: Exploring Marshall's Fable of the Trees

  • Esben Sloth Andersen

It is increasingly recognised that population thinking is a basic characteristic of evolutionary economics. By taking its starting point in what is here called Marshall's fable of the trees, the paper demonstrates that there are several forms of population thinking. The most basic form is intra-population thinking for single populations, and this thinking easily extends to structured populations, where selection takes place at several levels. But there is also a need of applying inter-population thinking to the co-evolution of populations and intra-to-inter population thinking to the emergence of new populations. To transform these forms of population thinking into evolutionary analyses, there is a need of simple analytical tools. The paper emphasises a simple and basic tool for population thinking 'Price' equation. This little known equation provides a surprisingly powerful tool for the partitioning of overall evolutionary change into a selection effect and what may be called an innovation effect. This partitioning serves as a means of accounting for evolution and as a starting point for the explanation of evolution. The applications of Price's equation cover relatively short-term evolutionary change within individual industries as well as the study of more complexly structured populations of firms. It also, to some extent, helps to understand the effects of co-evolution between populations and the emergence of new populations.

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Paper provided by DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies in its series DRUID Working Papers with number 04-05.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:04-05
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  1. Mark Doms & Eric J. Bartelsman, 2000. "Understanding Productivity: Lessons from Longitudinal Microdata," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 569-594, September.
  2. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Young, Allyn A., 1928. "Increasing Returns and Economic Progress," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 38, pages 527-542.
  4. Ulrich Witt, 2006. "Evolutionary Economics," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2006-05, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  5. Richard R. Nelson, 1995. "Recent Evolutionary Theorizing about Economic Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 48-90, March.
  6. Esben Sloth Andersen, 1999. "Multisectoral Growth and National Innovation Systems," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 25, pages 33-52.
  7. Metcalfe, J S, 1994. "Competition, Fisher's Principle and Increasing Returns in the Selection Process," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 4(4), pages 327-46, November.
  8. Franco Malerba & Luigi Orsenigo, 2002. "Innovation and market structure in the dynamics of the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology: towards a history-friendly model," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(4), pages 667-703, August.
  9. Malerba, Franco, et al, 1999. "'History-Friendly' Models of Industry Evolution: The Computer Industry," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 3-40, March.
  10. Romer, Paul, 1993. "Idea gaps and object gaps in economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 543-573, December.
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