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Stagnation and innovation before agriculture

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  • Dow, Gregory K.
  • Reed, Clyde G.

Abstract

During the roughly 190,000 years between the emergence of anatomically modern humans and the transition to agriculture, sustained economic progress was rare. Although there were important innovations in the Upper Paleolithic, evidence from paleodemography indicates that population densities were driven more by climatic conditions than by technological innovations in food acquisition. We develop a model in which technological knowledge is subject to mutation and selection across generations. In a static environment, long run stagnation is the norm. However, climate shocks can induce experimentation with latent resources. This generates punctuated equilibria with greater technical capabilities and higher population densities at successive plateaus. The model is consistent with archaeological data on climate, population, diet, and technology from the Upper Paleolithic through the early Neolithic.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 339-350

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:3:p:339-350

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Related research

Keywords: Growth Development Economic history Prehistory Progress Stagnation Innovation Technological change Punctuated equilibrium Cultural evolution Hunting and gathering Agriculture Foraging Archaeology Anthropology Climate Natural resources Paleolithic Mesolithic Neolithic;

References

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  1. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed & Nancy Olewiler, 2009. "Climate reversals and the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 27-53, March.
  2. Shekhar Aiyar & Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Omer Moav, 2008. "Technological progress and regress in pre-industrial times," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 125-144, June.
  3. Arifovic, Jasmina & Bullard, James & Duffy, John, 1997. " The Transition from Stagnation to Growth: An Adaptive Learning Approach," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 185-209, July.
  4. Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run," NBER Working Papers 7375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  6. Kremer, Michael, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716, August.
  7. Galor, Oded, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 4581, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Edward L. Glaeser & Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1999. "Population and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 145-149, May.
  9. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
  10. Locay, Luis, 1997. "Population equilibrium in primitive societies," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 747-767.
  11. Matthew Baker, 2008. "A structural model of the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 257-292, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed, 2009. "The Origins of Inequality: Insiders, Outsiders, Elites, and Commoners," Discussion Papers dp09-03, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

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