Fall 2009 UMASS Amherst
Operations Research / Management Science Seminar Series

Date: Friday, November 20, 2009

Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Isenberg School of Management, Room 112

Speaker: Professor Sam Bowles

University of Massachusetts (Emeritus)
Sante Fe Institute
the University of Siena

Biography: Dr. Samuel Bowles is Research Professor at the Santa Fe Institute where he heads the Behavioral Sciences Program. He is also Professor of Economics at the University of Siena. He taught economics at Harvard from 1965 to 1973 and at the University of Massachusetts, where he is now emeritus professor. His recent studies on cultural evolution have challenged the conventional economic assumption that people are motivated entirely by self-interest. These have included the mathematical modeling and agent-based computer simulations of the evolution of altruistic behaviors by means of multi-level selection and behavioral experiments in 15 huntergather and other small-scale societies. Bowles' current research also includes both theoretical and empirical studies of the role of incomplete contracts in labor markets and financial markets in explaining income inequality.

His scholarly papers have appeared in Science, Nature, American Economic Review, Theoretical Population Biology, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Behavioral and Brain Science, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, and the Economic Journal. His recent books include Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions and Evolution (Princeton University Press, 2004), Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: the Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (MIT Press, 2005), Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success (Princeton University Press 2004), Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence in 15 Small-scale Societies. (Oxford University Press. 2004) and Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command and Change (Oxford University Press, 2004).

He has also served as an economic advisor to the governments of Cuba, South Africa and Greece, to presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, and to the World Bank and the International Labor Organization.

TITLE: The Nature of Wealth and the Dynamics of Inequality from Pre-history to the Knowledge-based Economy
Abstract: The continuum of inequality in human societies ranges from foraging bands with a strong egalitarian ethos to more highly stratified agrarian and industrial economies. No empirically-tested model of the stability of these differences over long periods of time or of the transitions among them exists. I address this puzzle with a dynamic model in which a population’s long-run steady-state inequality depends on the extent to which its most important forms of wealth are transmitted within families across generations. A new data set allows comparable estimates of the intergenerational transmission of different types of embodied, material, and relational wealth as well as the degree of wealth inequality for 21 historical and contemporary populations. I show that intergenerational transmission and wealth inequality is substantial among pastoral and small-scale agricultural societies (on a par with the most unequal modern industrial economies) and quite limited among horticultural and foraging peoples (equivalent to the most egalitarian of modern industrial populations). These findings and the model thus may help explain why permanent and substantial inequalities in wealth are characteristic of agricultural and pastoral economies and not of hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists. They also suggest a possible dramatic transformation of the dynamics of inequality in the knowledge-based economy.
This series is organized by the UMASS Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. Support for this series is provided by the Isenberg School of Management, the Department of Finance and Operations Management, INFORMS, and the John F. Smith Memorial Fund.

Dr. Anna Nagurney, the John F. Smith Memorial Professor of Operations Management in the Isenberg School of Management,  is the Faculty Advisor of the Speaker Series.