Monday, August 22, 2022

Once amongst the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-reliant people born after the slaughter lost their entire height advantage

The Slaughter of the Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains. Donn. L. Feir, Rob Gillezeau & Maggie E.C. Jones. NBER Working Paper 30368, August 2022. DOI 10.3386/w30368

Abstract: In the late nineteenth century, the North American bison was brought to the brink of extinction in just over a decade. We demonstrate that the loss of the bison had immediate, negative consequences for the Native Americans who relied on them and ultimately resulted in a permanent reversal of fortunes. Once amongst the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-reliant people born after the slaughter lost their entire height advantage. By the early twentieth century, child mortality was 16 percentage points higher and the probability of reporting an occupation 29.7 percentage points lower in bison nations compared to nations that were never reliant on the bison. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and into the present, income per capita has remained 28 percent lower, on average, for bison nations. This persistent gap cannot be explained by differences in agricultural productivity, self-governance, or application of the Dawes Act. We provide evidence that this historical shock altered the dynamic path of development for formerly bison-reliant nations. We demonstrate that limited access to credit constrained the ability of bison nations to adjust through respecialization and migration.

VII. Conclusion

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the North American bison roamed the Great Plains in the tens of millions, but by 1880, the bison were nearly extinct, the result of a mass slaughter that occurred within as little as 10 years. This is the first paper to empirically quantify the persistent effects of the slaughter on the Native American nations who relied on the bison for over 10,000 years prior to its extinction. We compile historical, anthropological, geographic, and modern economic data to show that the elimination of the bison affected the well-being of the Indigenous peoples who relied on them, both immediately after the bison’s decline, and up to 150 years later. We argue that the loss of the bison resulted in a reversal of fortunes: historically, bison-reliant societies were among the most well-off people on the continent, but today, they are among the poorest.

We study the dynamic path of development through which this shock has persisted into the present day and demonstrate that early access to credit could have mitigated the persistent effects of the loss of the bison. While the loss of the bison was a unique historical event, large regional economic shocks are not. Similarly, Native Americans occupy a unique institutional space in the United States but barriers to adjustment, like costly migration, low levels of development, and credit constraints are common. The experiences of the formerly bison-reliant peoples, important in their own right, also shed light on how economic shocks can persist for decades in the absence of access to other financial resources.

Women were seven times more likely to lose work during the nationwide lockdown, and conditional on losing work, eleven times more likely to not return to work subsequently, compared to men; and on and on

Down and out? The gendered impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on India’s labour market. Rosa Abraham, Amit Basole & Surbhi Kesar. Economia Politica volume 39, pages 101–128. Jul 14 2022.

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions in labour markets across the world including loss of employment and decline in incomes. Using panel data from India, we investigate the differential impact of the shock on labour market outcomes for male and female workers. We find that, conditional on being in the workforce prior to the pandemic, women were seven times more likely to lose work during the nationwide lockdown, and conditional on losing work, eleven times more likely to not return to work subsequently, compared to men. Using logit regressions on a sample stratified by gender, we find that daily wage and young workers, whether men or women, were more likely to face job loss. Education shielded male workers from job loss, whereas highly educated female workers were more vulnerable to job loss. Marriage had contrasting effects for men and women, with married women less likely to return to work and married men more likely to return to work. Religion and gender intersect to exacerbate the disproportionate impact, with Muslim women more likely to not return to work, unlike Muslim men for whom we find religion having no significant impact. Finally, for those workers who did return to work, we find that a large share of men in the workforce moved to self-employment or daily wage work, in agriculture, trade or construction. For women, on the other hand, there is limited movement into alternate employment arrangements or industries. This suggests that typical ‘fallback’ options for employment do not exist for women. During such a shock, women are forced to exit the workforce whereas men negotiate across industries and employment arrangements.

Discussion and conclusion

The stringent economic lockdown in India affected workers across regions, industries, and employment arrangements. However, the impact has been quite gendered in its nature. Women, in particular, have been more adversely affected relative to men in terms of their labour market participation. Our findings suggest that during the lockdown, women were far more likely to lose work compared to men. Moreover, even after the lifting of the lockdown and with easing of mobility and other restrictions, women’s recovery into employment has been substantially lower compared to men. While men experienced an almost-complete recovery into employment, a significant proportion of women experienced job loss of a more permanent nature. In an economy where women’s work participation rates have been historically low and declining (Mehrotra & Parida, 2017), this adverse impact and muted recovery of women’s workforce participation is particularly worrying.

Possible reasons for this gender disparity can be attributed both to the supply side as well as the demand-side factors. On the supply side, increased burden of household work, lack of socially or market-provided childcare options and shutdown of schools could force women to stay at home, as well as spend more time in care and other unpaid activities, as compared to men. Consistent with this, Deshpande (2020) confirms muted employment recovery for women with young children. While our regression estimates do not find a significant impact on the presence of children, we find that that women from larger households (and hence having more domestic work) were less likely to return to work.

On the demand side, it has been argued that the disproportionately higher impact on women can be explained on the basis of women having a higher employment in those sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as health and education, and being employed in more tenuous employment contracts (World Bank, 2020a). This occupational and industrial segregation exposes women far more than men to the economic impacts of the pandemic (Oxfam, 2021). However, the results from our regression estimates show that the disproportionate impact on women remains even after controlling for industry and employment arrangements. Women, irrespective of the nature or industry of work, are more vulnerable to lose work and not return to work.

It is likely that other supply side factors that are not captured in our estimates explain the higher impact on and muted recovery of women in the workforce. In the face of an overall decline in labour demand, gender norms that ensure that scarce economic opportunities flow to men in preference to women, could constrain women’s (re-)entry into the labour market. Such gender norms may also explain the relative lack of fallback options for women within the workforce, forcing them to move out entirely. In the face of such a shock, while men negotiate labour market spaces by moving across sectors and industries, women are often left with little or no choice and are forced to exit.

Further, continued restrictions on mobility and limited functioning of public transport facilities also differentially impact women more since they are relatively more dependent on public transport (Shah et al., 2017). For many women workers, increased police patrolling for enforcing social isolation rules have also exposed them to more instances of harassment and aggression, further affecting their return to work (ISST, 2020).

Taken together, our results point to large movements downwards and outwards, particularly for women workers. We believe that this study as well as other similar emerging analyses from India and elsewhere contribute to our rapidly evolving understanding of the differential impacts of the pandemic. These insights should prove useful in designing more effective policy support measures to counteract these effects and chart a path to a robust and inclusive recovery.

Men's almost universally greater tendency to overestimate their abilities is likely the heritage of a long evolutionary urge to achieve the upper hand in the mating game

The Cocksure Conundrum: How Evolution Created a Gendered Currency of Corporate Overconfidence. Richard Ronay, William W. Maddux & William von Hippel. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, Aug 19 2022.

Abstract: Biological differences between men and women mandate that women’s obligatory investment in reproduction is significantly greater than that of men. As a result, women have evolved to be the “choosier” of the two sexes and men have evolved to compete for female choice. To the degree that overconfidence is an effective tool for attracting mates and driving away competitors, greater competition among men suggests that they should express more overconfidence than women. Thus, sexual selection may be the primary reason why overconfidence is typically more pronounced in men than it is in women. Sexual selection may also be a distal, causal factor in what we describe as a cult of overconfidence pervading modern organizations and institutions. Whereas overconfidence was once regulated and constrained by features of ancestral life, levels of social mobility and accountability in contemporary society and modern organizations make it increasingly difficult to keep this gendered bias in check.

Why are People Overconfident?

Psychological explanations for the widespread tendency towards self-aggrandizement have focused primarily on intrapersonal hedonic benefits, such as higher self-esteem for those who believe they are better than others, and reduced reactivity to stressful events (e.g., Dunning et al., 1995; Taylor & Brown, 1988). An alternative possibility, however, is that overconfidence may be an evolved strategy of considerable utility for achieving status and other types of social currency, such as alliance formation, persuasion and influence, romantic attraction, and ultimately reproduction (von Hippel & Trivers, 2011a).

Individual differences in traits that lead to differential “fitness” within a given ecology result in reproductive variance (i.e., natural selection; Darwin, 1859; Andersson & Iwassa, 1996)). As a result, certain individuals’ expressed traits enable them to leave a greater genetic footprint than that of others. Across generations, this process leads to a proliferation of whatever genes assist in survival and reproduction. And so the footprint grows. The pan-cultural nature of the overconfidence bias (Sedikides et al., 2003) suggests that it may well be one such adaptive trait, selected for over many thousands of generations (Johnson & Fowler, 2011), likely predating the separation of our hominin ancestors from the ancestors of modern chimpanzees (e.g., Moore et al., 2009; Noë et al., 1980). Indeed, Daniel Kahneman speaks of overconfidence as being fundamentally built into the structures of human reasoning (Shariatmadari, 2015).

Given that overconfidence can lead to faulty assessments of one’s circumstances, and hence potentially perilous decisions, it seems odd that overconfidence might have provided an advantage in the context of natural selection. Believing oneself single-handedly capable of bringing down a woolly mammoth was unlikely to have been a winning attitude for our ancestors. Nonetheless, in competitive settings marked by uncertainty, overconfidence has the potential to maximize individual outcomes, so long as the associated costs of failure are outweighed by the benefits of possible success (Johnson & Fowler, 2011; Számadó, 2000). In other words, when the potential gains of achieving a particular goal outweigh the potential costs of failing, risky strategies such as overconfidence have adaptive utility (Adams & Mesterton-Gibbons, 1995; Számadó, 2003).

This perspective is consistent with Error Management Theory (Haselton & Buss, 2000), which predicts the emergence of psychological biases when; (1) the decision had recurrent impacts on fitness (reproductive success), (2) the decision is based on uncertain information, (3) the costs of false positives and false negatives were recurrently asymmetrical over evolutionary time. Overconfidence in one’s abilities meet these criteria quite well under many circumstances.

First, overconfidence potentially impacts fitness by helping individuals compete for sexual opportunity (Murphy et al., 2015) as well as other material and social resources that contribute to reproduction, such as status, prestige, and material rewards (e.g., Henrich & Gil-White, 2001). Second, uncertainty would have been a necessary condition for overconfidence to evolve, as certainty does away with the need for competition and signaling. In such cases, the strongest or most obviously qualified rival simply takes the desired resource. Indeed, as the uncertainty of contested outcomes increases, so too does the utility of overconfidence (Johnson & Fowler, 2011). Third, the costs in lost opportunities associated with being underconfident, or even accurate, are often greater than the costs associated with being overconfident, particularly when people compete with each other over limited resources (Soldà et al., 2021).

As a result of these processes, in situations where the potential gains of overconfidence outweigh the potential risks of overclaiming, overconfident individuals may have an advantage. If so, then overconfident displays may be a functional adaptation that help individuals acquire material and social benefits, depending on the relative magnitude of the risks and rewards that a given situation affords (Adams & Mesterton-Gibbons, 1995; Számadó, 20002003). Consistent with the above reasoning, overconfident people gain a host of social and material benefits, such as increased perceptions of competence and a rise in social status and perceived leadership potential (Anderson et al., 2012; Ronay et al., 2019). As status increases, physiological markers of stress such as cortisol decrease (Sherman & Mehta, 2020) and dopamine sensitivity increases (Morgan et al., 2002), providing proximate, secondary mechanisms for the relationship between overconfidence and the maintenance of positive affect in response to social stressors (Ronay et al., 2019). Thus, it comes as no surprise that overconfidence is selected for in CEO appointments, despite the higher probability of overconfident leaders initiating value-destroying investments (Goel & Thakor, 2008) and financial reporting fraud (Schrand & Zechman, 2012). And perhaps, as we outline below, no surprise that fewer than 5% of CEO positions in the US and Europe are held by women (Edgecliffe-Johnson, 2018).

Why are Overconfident People So Often Men?

This distally focused, status-enhancing account of overconfidence has at least one important moderating factor: The available evidence strongly suggests that men tend to be more overconfident than women. For example, men exhibit more overconfidence than women in academic achievement (Bengtsson et al., 2005), finance and trading (Cueva et al., 2019; Prince, 1993), conflict and competitions (Johnson et al., 2006; Niederle & Vesterlund, 2007), science and mathematics (Ehrlinger & Dunning, 2003; Hyde et al., 1990), past performance (Reuben et al., 2012), intelligence (Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009), and on general knowledge and cognitive tasks (O'Laughlin & Brubaker, 1998; Pallier, 2003). By way of example, in one study, 70% of men and 30% of women, overestimated their work performance and professional skills (Lindeman et al., 1995). While under-confidence is generally the exception, it is more often women than men who err on the side of excessive humility (Lenney, 1977; Small et al., 2007), underestimating their chances of success across various outcomes (Erkut, 1983; Mura, 1987). Even successful women are more likely to attribute their triumphs to external causes, such as others in their team, or luck, rather than to personal aptitude (Campbell & Hackett, 1986; Haynes & Heilman, 2013; LaNoue & Curtis, 1985).

One potential origin of these observed gender differences is biased sampling, in that prior research has often assessed overconfidence in what are considered traditionally masculine domains. However, we argue that overconfidence is not a direct product of domain importance, expertise, or even stereotypicality; rather it is a product of the desire to persuade others of one’s competence in a given domain (Hoffman & Yoeli, 2022; von Hippel & Trivers, 2011a). As such, it is not so much the male-bias of the domains that matters, but the degree to which perceived ability in the domain can help people compete with members of the same sex or attract members of the opposite sex.

Thus, our theorizing also suggests that in contexts that stimulate competition between women, we might see stronger expressions of female overconfidence. For instance, given the importance of social support to female reproductive success (Campbell, 2004; Taylor et al., 2000), we might expect greater female overconfidence in domains related to emotional intelligence, such as empathy (Muthukrishna et al., 2018). And given that attractiveness is a primary dimension of competition for women (Blake et al., 2018; Buss, 1989), we might also see greater overconfidence in attractiveness among women than among men. A finding that is potentially consistent with this possibility is that the correlation between self- and other-ratings of physical attractiveness is substantially lower for women (r = 0.29) than it is for men (r = 0.53) (Marcus & Miller, 2003; see also Pereira et al., 2019).

Despite these possibilities, there are two important caveats that suggest male overconfidence is more important than female overconfidence in attracting a mate. First, with greater variability on a trait, competition for that trait becomes more important. In short-term mating the playing field among females is much more equal than it is among males (Brooks, 2021), suggesting that overconfidence is more likely to be wielded by males than females in short-term mating contexts. In long-term mating, competition among females is more focused on male traits that confer status, and as such, we might expect female status competition to increase with greater variability in male status and income. Support for this prediction can be seen in the finding that women’s self-sexualization occurs to a greater extent in environments that are economically unequal (Blake et al., 2018). Maximizing one’s beauty is a fruitful strategy for attracting high-status male partners (Udry & Eckland, 1984), which historically, has been an important strategy (indeed, sometimes the only strategy) for female survival and social mobility (Blake & Brooks, 2019).

But this possibility leads to our second point, which is that competition among females for long term mates is more focused on male traits that are not directly observable and hence can only be detected with greater uncertainty (e.g., the capacity to gain resources and assist in parental care giving; Taylor et al., 2000). As noted above, uncertainty magnifies the impact of overconfidence. As a consequence, overconfidence has more potential to enhance perceptions of important male traits (such as competence) than it does to enhance perceptions of important female traits (such as physical attractiveness). Perhaps for this reason, Blake (2018) finds that expenditure at beauty salons and women’s clothing stores also covaries with economic inequality, as adornments may be a more viable means of amplifying physical attractiveness than overconfidence. Women’s relative overuse of image-enhancing filters and photo editing (Dhir et al., 2016) may stem from similar motivations. The bottom line here is that males’ internal assets are more readily distorted via overconfident claims.

These differences in adaptive pressures are not unique to humans, and although cognitive tools such as language, theory of mind, and episodic foresight have dramatically enhanced the scope of human deception (Dor, 2017; Suddendorf et al., 2022), false signaling in the context of sexual competition is widespread. For instance, Noë et al. (1980) examined the role of dominance in explaining social rank within chimpanzee hierarchies, identifying three categories of dominance displays – agonistic, bluff, and competitive. They found that male chimpanzee’s social rank to be tied to displays of agonistic dominance (direct physical dominance) and bluff displays (closest to overconfidence). Females social rank was linked only with dominance in competition for space – such as giving way when another is approaching; and social competition – such as refraining from interacting with another partner because another chimp usually acts as partner to the third. Consistent with the human data, overconfidence has the greatest utility in the context of agonistic confrontations and bluff displays.

We can see similar effects further afield from our genetic roots: consider male fig wasps who signal their fighting ability during territorial competitions by displaying their impressive mandibles (Moore et al., 2009). Wasps with large mandibles are intimidating as they can inflict significant damage on opponents. Capitalizing on this advantage, there is an atypical male phenotype that develops mandibles 50% larger than expected for body size. These males are competitive signalers and engage in fewer fights than typical males but have higher mating success. Nonetheless, when compelled to combat, they fare poorly and incur more injuries than a typical male. Taken together, these examples from our near and distant cousins suggest that male sexual competition frequently takes the form of exaggerated signaling, a strategy that may be well served by self-deceptive overconfidence (see Angilletta et al., 2019).