On the Spatial Diffusion of Cooperation with Endogenous Matching Institutions

Emanuela Migliaccio, and Thierry Verdier


This paper studies the spatial joint evolution of cooperative behavior and a partially assortative matching institution that protects cooperators. We consider cooperation as characterized by a cultural trait transmitted via an endogenous socialization mechanism and we assume that such trait can diffuse randomly in space due to some spatial noise in the socialization mechanism. Using mathematical techniques from reaction-diffusion equations theory, we show that, under some conditions, an initially localized domain of preferences for cooperation can invade the whole population and characterize the asymptotic speed of diffusion. We consider first the case with exogenous assortativeness, and then endogeneize the degree of social segmentation in matching, assuming that it is collectively set at each point of time and space by the local community. We show how relatively low cost segmenting institutions can appear in new places thanks to the spatial random diffusion of cooperation, helping a localized cultural cluster of cooperation to invade the whole population. The endogenous assortative matching institution follows a life cycle process: appearing, growing and then disappearing once a culture of cooperation is sufficiently established in the local population.

Published in

Games, vol. 9, n. 3, 2018