American Economic Review: Vol. 104 No. 6 (June 2014)

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Evolutionary Origins of the Endowment Effect: Evidence from Hunter-Gatherers

Article Citation

Apicella, Coren L., Eduardo M. Azevedo, Nicholas A. Christakis, and James H. Fowler. 2014. "Evolutionary Origins of the Endowment Effect: Evidence from Hunter-Gatherers." American Economic Review, 104(6): 1793-1805.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.6.1793

Abstract

The endowment effect, the tendency to value possessions more than non-possessions, is a well known departure from rational choice and has been replicated in numerous settings. We investigate the universality of the endowment effect, its evolutionary significance, and its dependence on environmental factors. We experimentally test for the endowment effect in an isolated and evolutionarily relevant population of hunter-gatherers, the Hadza Bushmen of Northern Tanzania. We find that Hadza living in isolated regions do not display the endowment effect, while Hadza living in a geographic region with increased exposure to modern society and markets do display the endowment effect.

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Authors

Apicella, Coren L. (U PA)
Azevedo, Eduardo M. (U PA)
Christakis, Nicholas A. (Yale U)
Fowler, James H. (U CA, San Diego)

JEL Classifications

C93: Field Experiments
D12: Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
O15: Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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