Human Evolutionary Ecology and Economic Growth

EPA Grant Number: U916156
Title: Human Evolutionary Ecology and Economic Growth
Investigators: Efferson, Charles M.
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $98,323
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2003) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Economics


The study of economic growth makes widespread use of two assumptions that are neither compatible with theoretical evolutionary ecology nor well supported by empirical studies. The first assumption is that population growth is exogenous, and the second is that individual well-being varies positively with absolute material consumption in a way that renders relative consumption unimportant. The objective of this research project is to use a combination of both mathematical modeling and experimental economics, to relax both assumptions and place a particular emphasis on the implications of doing so with regard to environmental policy.


On the theoretical side, I am using various modeling techniques from theoretical ecology and human evolutionary ecology to endogenize population dynamics in economic growth models and study both how and why people might value their relative consumption levels in addition to their absolute consumption levels. On the empirical side, I am using the methods of experimental economics to track the evolution of consumption norms in the Sama Biological Reserve of Bolivia. Additionally, I hope to uncover how changing consumption norms affect the willingness of local people to support the conservation and sustainable development project currently underway in Sama.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, economic growth, evolutionary ecology, environmental policy, population dynamics, conservation, sustainable development, Sama Biological Reserve, Bolivia.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final