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Of maize and men: the effect of a New World crop on population and economic growth in China

Author

Listed:
  • Shuo Chen

    () (Fudan University)

  • James Kai-sing Kung

    () (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

Abstract

Abstract We examine the question of whether China was trapped within a Malthusian regime at a time when Western Europe had all but emerged from it. By applying a difference-in-differences analysis to maize adoption in China from 1600 to 1910, we find that cultivation of this New World crop failed to raise per capita income. While maize accounted for a nearly 19 % increase in the Chinese population during 1776–1910, its effect on urbanization and real wages was not pronounced. Our results are robust to different sample selection procedures, to the control of variables pertinent to Malthusian “positive checks”, to different measures of economic growth and to data modifications. Our study thus provides rich empirical support to the claim that under the conditions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China, new agricultural technologies led to the Malthusian outcome of population growth without wage increases and urbanization.

Suggested Citation

  • Shuo Chen & James Kai-sing Kung, 2016. "Of maize and men: the effect of a New World crop on population and economic growth in China," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 71-99, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:21:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s10887-016-9125-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s10887-016-9125-8
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    Cited by:

    1. 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).
    2. Carillo, Mario Francesco, 2018. "Agricultural policy and long-run development: evidence from Mussolini's Battle for Grain," MPRA Paper 88941, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Cherniwchan, Jevan & Moreno-Cruz, Juan, 2019. "Maize and precolonial Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 137-150.
    4. Liang, Ruobing & Wang, Xiaobing & Yamauchi, Futoshi, 2018. "Cotton Revolution And Widow Chastity In Ming And Qing China," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274177, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    5. Deng, Kent & Shengmin, Sun, 2019. "China’s extraordinary population expansion and its determinants during the qing period, 1644-1911," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 100921, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Jean-Louis Combes & Mary-Françoise Renard & Shuo Shi, 2020. "Have unequal treaties fostered domestic market integration in Late Imperial China ?," Working Papers hal-02619286, HAL.
    7. Mitchener, Kris James & Ma, Debin, 2016. "Introduction to the special issue: a new economic history of China," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 69191, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Torben Dall Schmidt & Peter Sandholt Jensen & Amber Naz, 2018. "Agricultural productivity and economic development: the contribution of clover to structural transformation in Denmark," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 23(4), pages 387-426, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Malthus; New World crops; Maize; Population density; Economic growth; China;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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