Voting with your feet: Payoff biased migration and the evolution of group beneficial behavior

Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Human migration is nonrandom. In small scale societies of the past, and in the modern world, people tend to move to wealthier, safer, and more just societies from poorer, more violent, less just societies. If immigrants are assimilated, such nonrandom migration can increase the occurrence of culturally transmitted beliefs, values, and institutions that cause societies to be attractive to immigrants. Here we describe and analyze a simple model of this process. This model suggests that long run outcomes depend on the relative strength of migration and local adaptation. When local adaption is strong enough to preserve cultural variation among groups, cultural variants that make societies attractive always predominate, but never drive alternative variants to extinction. When migration predominates, outcomes depend both on the relative attractiveness of alternative variants and on the initial sizes of societies that provide and receive immigrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-339
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 21 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural evolution
  • Equilibrium selection
  • Population structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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