Charles Darwin – Hebrew University and Brown University economists have adapted his theory of natural selection to economic growth.Hebrew University economists working together with Brown University in Rhode Island have developed the first theory integrating evolutionary biology and economics.

The theory views the move to sustained economic growth as an evolutionary process of “natural selection.” The theory of (Israeli-born) Prof. Oded Galor of Brown and Dr. Omer Moav of HU was published in the current Quarterly Journal of Economics and reported in The Jerusalem Post.

According to the study, “it took an evolutionary leap in the human species to help trigger the change from centuries of economic stagnation to a state of sustained economic growth.”

Economics Prof. Joel Mokyr, a leading expert on the history of technological progress and the Industrial Revolution at Northwestern University in the US, praised the groundbreaking work, saying the team “have opened a new and potentially very fruitful vein of thinking about the history of economies in the very long run. This pioneering paper is a breakthrough in its use of population dynamics in long-term historical change and in applying Darwinian logic to the history of mankind.”

Until now, said Galor and Moav, economic growth theory did not have implications for evolutionary biology, and neither did evolutionary biology have implications for economic growth. But according to the new theory — the first of its kind ever proposed in economics literature — the evolution of the human brain in the transition to Homo sapiens increased the evolutionarily optimal investment in the quality of offspring. This evolutionary process accelerated due to to the emergence of the nuclear family that fostered intergenerational links.

The struggle for survival that characterized most of human existence stimulated a process of natural selection that conferred an evolutionary advantage on humans who had a higher genetic predisposition for a careful rearing of the next generation, they wrote. This same evolutionary change permitted the Industrial Revolution to trigger a change from an epoch of stagnation to an age of sustained economic growth, they argued.