Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 189–206 | Cite as

Sexual selection, conspicuous consumption and economic growth



We propose that the evolution by sexual selection of the male propensity to engage in conspicuous consumption contributed to the emergence of modern rates of economic growth. We develop a model in which males engage in conspicuous consumption to send an honest signal of their quality to females. Females prefer males who express the costly and honest signal, leading males who engage in conspicuous consumption to have higher reproductive success than those who do not, increasing the prevalence of signalling males in the population. As males fund their conspicuous consumption through participation in the labour force, an increase in the prevalence of signalling males gives rise to an increase in economic activity that leads to economic growth.


Conspicuous consumption Sexual selection Human evolution Economic growth 



For their comments we thank Paul Frijters, participants at the 2012 PhD Conference in Economics and Business, two anonymous referees, and participants in seminars with the Economics Discipline and the Centre for Evolutionary Biology at the University of Western Australia, the Experimental Ecology and Theoretical Biology Groups at the ETH Zurich, and the Behavioural Ecology Group at the University of Zurich.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business SchoolUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER), ARC CoE in Plant Energy BiologyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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