The appropriate response of Spanish Gitanos: short-run orientation beyond current socio-economic status
Humans differ greatly in their tendency to discount future events, but the reasons underlying such inter-individual differences remain poorly understood. Based on the evolutionary framework of Life History Theory, influential models predict that the extent to which individuals discount the future should be influenced by socio-ecological factors such as mortality risk, environmental predictability and resource scarcity. However, little empirical work has been conducted to compare the discounting behavior of human groups facing different socio-ecological conditions. In a lab-in-the-field economic experiment, we compared the delay discounting of a sample of Romani people from Southern Spain (Gitanos) with that of their non-Romani neighbors (i.e., the majority Spanish population). The Romani-Gitano population constitutes the main ethnic minority in all of Europe today and is characterized by lower socio-economic status (SES), lower life expectancy and poorer health than the majority, along with a historical experience of discrimination and persecution. According to those Life History Theory models, Gitanos will tend to adopt “faster” life history strategies (e.g., earlier marriage and reproduction) as an adaptation to such ecological conditions and, therefore, should discount the future more heavily than the majority. Our results support this prediction, even after controlling for the individuals’ current SES (income and education). Moreover, group-level differences explain a large share of the individual-level differences. Our data suggest that human inter-group discrimination might shape group members’ time preferences through its impact on the environmental harshness and unpredictability conditions they face.
adaptation, gypsies, impatience, romani, time discount