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The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment

  • Nathan Nunn
  • Nancy Qian

We exploit regional variation in suitability for cultivating potatoes, together with time variation arising from their introduction to the Old World from the Americas, to estimate the impact of potatoes on Old World population and urbanization. Our results show that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a significant portion of the increase in population and urbanization observed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to our most conservative estimates, the introduction of the potato accounts for approximately one-quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900. Additional evidence from within-country comparisons of city populations and adult heights also confirms the cross-country findings. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjr009
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 126 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 593-650

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:126:y:2011:i:2:p:593-650
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  1. Nunn, Nathan & Qian, Nancy, 2010. "The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas," Scholarly Articles 11986330, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  19. van Driel, Hans & Nadall, Venuta & Zeelenberg, Kees, 1997. "The Demand for Food in the United States and the Netherlands: A Systems Approach with the CBS Model: Reply," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(5), pages 530-32, Sept.-Oct.
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