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The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence

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Abstract

This research examines theoretically and empirically the origins of agriculture. The theory highlights the role of climatic sequences as a fundamental determinant of both technological sophistication and population density in a hunter-gatherer regime. It argues that foragers facing volatile environments were forced to take advantage of their productive endowments at a faster pace. Consequently, as long as climatic shocks preserved the possibility for agriculture, di¤erences in the rate at which foragers were climatically propelled to exploit their habitat determined the comparative evolution of hunter-gatherer societies towards farming. The theory is tested using both cross-country and cross-archaeological site data on the emergence of farming. Consistent with the theory, the empirical analysis demonstrates that, conditional on biogeographic endowments, climatic volatility has a non-monotonic e¤ect on the timing of the transition to agriculture. Farming was undertaken earlier in regions characterized by intermediate levels of climatic volatility, with regions subjected to either too high or too low intertemporal variability transiting later.

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File URL: http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/AshrafMichalopoulos-Neolithic.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Center for Development Economics with number 2010-10.

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Length: 66 pages
Date of creation: May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:wil:wilcde:2010-10

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Keywords: Hunting and Gathering; Agriculture; Neolithic Revolution; Climatic Volatility; Technological Progress; Population Density.;

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  1. Nils-Petter Lagerl–f, 2003. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Can Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 755-777, 05.
  2. Galor, Oded & Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2006. "The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Process of Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 6022, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon Myers, 2006. "On the Early Holocene: Foraging to Early Agriculture," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 751-772, 07.
  4. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
  5. Locay, Luis, 1989. "From Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(4), pages 737-56, July.
  6. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 110, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  7. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2003. "Stone Age Economics: The Origins of Agriculture and the Emergence of Non-Food Specialists," Discussion Papers 03-34, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  8. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2000. "Natural Selection and the Origin of economic Growth," Working Papers 2000-18, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  9. Olsson, Ola, 2001. "The Rise of Neolithic Agriculture," Working Papers in Economics 57, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  10. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 150-154, May.
  11. Smith, Vernon L, 1975. "The Primitive Hunter Culture, Pleistocene Extinction, and the Rise of Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 727-55, August.
  12. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  13. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," CEPR Discussion Papers 6444, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Malthus to Solow," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1205-1217, September.
  15. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," NBER Working Papers 17037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2008. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusain Epoch: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 2008-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  17. Holger Strulik & Jacob Weisdorf, 2008. "Population, food, and knowledge: a simple unified growth theory," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 195-216, September.
  18. Douglass C. North & Robert Paul Thomas, 1977. "The First Economic Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 30(2), pages 229-241, 05.
  19. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2005. "From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 561-586, 09.
  20. Matthew Baker, 2008. "A structural model of the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 257-292, December.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
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Cited by:
  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. James Fenske & Namrata Kala, 2012. "Climate, Ecosystem Resilience and the Slave Trade," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2012-23, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Fenske, James, 2010. "Ecology, trade and states in pre-colonial Africa," MPRA Paper 27203, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2008. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity: Theory and Evidence," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0725, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  5. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2013. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Diffusion of Agriculture," NBER Working Papers 18765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402 Elsevier.

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