• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Working paper

Does Milk Matter? Genetic Adaptation to Environment: The Effect of Lactase Persistence on Cultural Change

Considering diet as often a product of adaptation to geographic environment, this paper suggests that not only amount of food (food abundance) is important, but what kind of foods people eat may also affect social change. One of the reasons for variation in diet is food intolerances as a result of adaptation to the environment. This paper investigates one case – lactase persistence. This trait is associated with different genotypes of LCT gene. Lactase persistence is mostly spread among northern Europeans, and is also found among some African and Asian nomadic populations. Such unique trait is usually explained in the gene-culture coevolution framework: selective pressure for it had to be followed by expansion of dairying and herding. Empirical analysis based on 78 populations reveals strong and positive association between share of lactase persistent population and distribution of emancipative values. Two causal mechanisms are suggested: a) demographic trends (lower fertility and lower child mortality in lactose tolerant societies) and b) specific type of agriculture based on integration of crop growing and cattle husbandry (higher urban population rate in lactose tolerant societies).