The relative duration of the haploid and the diploid phases during the reproductive cycle varies greatly between organisms. This paper addresses the question of the evolution of haploid, diploid, and haplo-diplontic life cycles. When the life span of haploid and diploid individuals is constant whatever their cycle, we show that the haplo-diplontic cycle has an advantage, which depends on the sex-ratio in anisogamous species and on the probability of fertilization in isogamous species. This is because meiosis and fertilization occur half as often in the haplo-diplontic cycle as in haploid or diploid cycles, for the same number of generations of individuals. This argument is demonstrated using a model which considers a genetic determination of the cycle, and fixed haploid and diploid fitnesses. The relevance of measures of fitness of haploid and diploid individuals in predicting the evolution of life cycles is discussed. Measures obtained in algae are compared with theoretical predictions.