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Potatoes, milk, and the Old World population boom

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  • Justin Cook, C.

Abstract

This paper explores the role of two foods, potatoes and milk, in explaining the increase in economic development experienced throughout the Old World in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nunn and Qian (2011) show the introduction of the potato from the New World has a significant explanatory role for within country population and urbanization growth over this period. I expand on this by considering the role of milk consumption, which is hypothesized to be a complement in diet to potatoes due to a differential composition of essential nutrients. Using a country-level measure for the suitability of milk consumption, the frequency of lactase persistence, I show that the marginal effect of potatoes on post-1700 population and urbanization growth is positively related to milk consumption. As the frequency of milk consumption approaches unity, the marginal effect of potatoes more than doubles in magnitude compared to the baseline estimate of Nunn and Qian.

Suggested Citation

  • Justin Cook, C., 2014. "Potatoes, milk, and the Old World population boom," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 123-138.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:110:y:2014:i:c:p:123-138
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2014.04.009
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    Cited by:

    1. T. Ryan Johnson & Dietrich Vollrath, 2017. "How Tight are Malthusian Constraints?," Working Papers 2017-192-55, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
    2. Peter Sandholt Jensen & Markus Lampe & Paul Sharp & Christian Volmar Skovsgaard, 2018. "‘Getting to Denmark’: the Role of Elites for Development," Working Papers 0125, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    3. Murat Iyigun & Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2017. "The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900," NBER Working Papers 24066, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:kap:jecgro:v:23:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10887-018-9159-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402 Elsevier.
    6. Torben Dall Schmidt & Peter Sandholt Jensen & Amber Naz, 2014. "New crops, local soils and urbanization: Clover, potatoes and the growth of Danish market towns,1672-1901," Working Papers 0065, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Historical growth; Population; Land productivity; Milk; Potato;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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