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Is there a link between economic outcomes and genetic evolution? Cross-country evidence from the major histocompatibility complex

  • Borghans,José
  • Borghans,Lex
  • Weel,Bas,ter

    (ROA rm)

This research develops a theory and presents empirical evidence of a link between economicoutcomes and genetic evolution. Important properties for successful analysis of such a link arefound in the adaptive immune system and particularly in the major histocompatibilitycomplex (MHC), a genetically encoded complex involved in the defence against infections.The theory incorporates properties of the MHC in a model of mutual dependence and exhibitsa trade-off in which every agent who is better off having an immune response different fromthat of others is also part of the protecting belt of others in a population, in which mountingsimilar immune responses is optimal. The data are based on large numbers of blood samplesfrom 63 different populations. The cross-country estimates show a robust negative associationbetween economic and health outcomes and MHC diversity and between average offers inultimatum and trust games and MHC diversity. The analyses suggest that societiesincorporating externalities from mutual dependence are economically more successful, andthat the incorporation of such externalities is evident at the gene level.

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File URL: http://digitalarchive.maastrichtuniversity.nl/fedora/objects/guid:1a976c75-ab9c-45c2-9ff3-34399c9e686c/datastreams/ASSET1/content
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Paper provided by Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) in its series ROA Research Memorandum with number 001.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:unm:umaror:2006001
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