Population and Inequality Dynamics in Simple Economies

by   John C. Stevenson, et al.

While the use of spatial agent-based and individual-based models has flourished across many scientific disciplines, the complexities these models generate are often difficult to manage and quantify. This research reduces population-driven, spatial modeling of individuals to the simplest configurations and parameters: an equal resource opportunity landscape with equally capable individuals; and asks the question, "Will valid complex population and inequality dynamics emerge from this simple economic model?" Two foraging economies are modeled: subsistence and surplus. The resulting, emergent population dynamics are characterized by their sensitivities to agent and landscape parameters. The various steady and oscillating regimes of single-species population dynamics are generated by appropriate selection of model growth parameters. These emergent dynamics are shown to be consistent with the equation-based, continuum modeling of single-species populations in biology and ecology. The intrinsic growth rates, carry capacities, and delay parameters of these models are implied for these simple economies. Aggregate measures of individual distributions are used to understand the sensitivities to model parameters. New local measures are defined to describe complex behaviors driven by spatial effects, especially extinctions. This simple economic model is shown to generate significantly complex population and inequality dynamics. Model parameters generating the intrinsic growth rate have strong effects on these dynamics, including large variations in inequality. Significant inequality effects are shown to be caused by birth costs above and beyond their contribution to the intrinsic growth rate. The highest levels of inequality are found during the initial non-equilibrium period and are driven by factors different than those driving steady state inequality.


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