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A bioeconomic view of the Neolithic transition to agriculture

  • Arthur J. Robson

Adoption of agriculture at the expense of hunting and gathering was the dramatic precondition for all modern civilization. Recent data suggest that, because of this transition, humans initially were more disease prone, smaller, less nourished, and shorter-lived. To explain why individuals chose agriculture over hunting and gathering, this paper develops a simple model of the evolution of preferences over the quality and quantity of children, as would have been generated by our long history as a species. These preferences would have induced the choice of agriculture, but also would have led to these otherwise puzzling health effects.

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Article provided by Canadian Economics Association in its journal Canadian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 43 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 280-300

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Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:43:y:2010:i:1:p:280-300
Contact details of provider: Postal: Canadian Economics Association Prof. Steven Ambler, Secretary-Treasurer c/o Olivier Lebert, CEA/CJE/CPP Office C.P. 35006, 1221 Fleury Est Montréal, Québec, Canada H2C 3K4
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  1. Arthur Robson & Tiemen Woutersen, 2007. "The effect of food intake on longevity," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 26(2), pages 1-11.
  2. 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.
  3. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2000. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," Arbetsrapport 2000:5, Institute for Futures Studies.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Matthew J. Baker, 2003. "An Equilibrium Conflict Model of Land Tenure in Hunter-Gatherer Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 124-173, February.
  7. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2007. "The Neolithic Revolution and Contemporary Variations in Life Expectancy," Working Papers 2007-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
  9. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2003. "From Foraging to Farming: Explaining the Neolithic Revolution," Discussion Papers 03-41, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  10. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:26:y:2007:i:2:p:1-11 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Seabright, Paul, 2008. "Warfare and the Multiple Adoption of Agriculture After the Last Ice Age," IDEI Working Papers 522, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  12. 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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