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The Biocultural Origins of Human Capital Formation

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  • Oded Galor
  • Marc Klemp

Abstract

This research explores the biocultural origins of human capital formation. It presents the first evidence that moderate fecundity was conducive for long-run reproductive success within the human species. Exploiting an extensive genealogy record for nearly half a million individuals in Quebec during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the study traces the number of descendants of early inhabitants in the subsequent four generations. Using the time interval between the date of marriage and the first live birth as a measure of reproductive capacity, the research establishes that while a higher fecundity is associated with a larger number of children, an intermediate level maximizes long-run reproductive success. The finding further indicates that the optimal level of fecundity was below the population median, suggesting that the forces of natural selection favored individuals with a lower level of fecundity. The research lends credence to the hypothesis that during the Malthusian epoch, natural selection favored individuals with a larger predisposition towards child quality, contributing to human capital formation, the onset of the demographic transition and the evolution of societies from an epoch of stagnation to sustained economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Oded Galor & Marc Klemp, 2014. "The Biocultural Origins of Human Capital Formation," Working Papers 2014-6, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2014-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jo Thori Lind & Halvor Mehlum, 2010. "With or Without U? The Appropriate Test for a U-Shaped Relationship," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 72(1), pages 109-118, February.
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    4. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
    5. Matteo Cervellati & Uwe Sunde, 2005. "Human Capital Formation, Life Expectancy, and the Process of Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1653-1672, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jason Collins & Boris Baer & Ernst Juerg Weber, 2016. "Evolutionary Biology in Economics: A Review," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 92(297), pages 291-312, June.
    2. Carol H. SHIUE, 2016. "A Culture of Kinship: Chinese Genealogies as a Souce for Research in Demographic Economics," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 459-482, December.
    3. Casey, Gregory & Galor, Oded, 2014. "Population Dynamics and Long-Run Economic Growth," MPRA Paper 62598, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. repec:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:13-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. de la Croix, David & Schneider, Eric & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2017. "'Decessit sine prole' - Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England," CEPR Discussion Papers 11752, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. repec:taf:vhimxx:v:51:y:2018:i:1:p:13-38 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. de la Croix, David & Gobbi, Paula E., 2017. "Population density, fertility, and demographic convergence in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 13-24.
    8. Mikołaj Szołtysek & Radoslaw Poniat & Sebastian Klüsener & Siegfried Gruber, 2017. "Family organisation and human capital inequalities in historic Europe: testing the association anew," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2017-012, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Demography; Evolution; Human Capital Formation; Natural Selection; Fecundity; Quantity-Quality Trade-O?; Long-Run Reproductive Success;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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