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Political Institutions and Preference Evolution

WU, JIABIN (2016): Political Institutions and Preference Evolution.

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This paper argues that political institutions play an important role in shaping the evolutionary trajectory of preferences. We consider a population with two preference groups. A political institution provides the platform and a set of rules for the two groups to battle over the relative representativeness of their preference traits for the high positions in the social hierarchy. This political process affects the economic outcomes of the two groups, subsequently the intergenerational transmission of preferences. We study how conducive different political institutions are to spreading preference traits that induce better economic outcomes. We find that any preference trait can be prevalent under "exclusive" political institutions. Therefore, a society can be trapped in a state in which preference traits associated with unfavorable economic outcomes persist. On the other hand, preference evolution under "inclusive" political institutions has stronger selection power and only the preference traits that result in the largest comparative advantage in holding a high position can be prevalent.

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