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Life-Work Balance During The Neolithic Revolution



    () (Escuela de Administración, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)


Firms in modern western world are often said to encourage people to prioritize work over family life. This imbalance, some personnel psychologist claim, causes tension and unhappiness. The story, however, is not new. Something very similar happened during the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture, some 10,000 years ago. Working time increased alongside population. Meanwhile, consumption remained at the subsistence level. I show, using a neoclassical economic, that the technological improvements associated to agriculturization induce free, rational and self-interested hunter-gatherers to adopt agriculture. As a result, working time increases while consumption remains at the subsistence level, and population begins to grow until diminishing returns to labor bring it to a halt. Welfare, which depends on consumption, leisure, and fertility, rises at first; but after a few generations it falls below its initial level. Still, the adoption of agriculture is irreversible. The latter generations choose to remain farmers because, at their current levels of population, reverting to hunting and gathering would reduce their welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo Andrés Guzmán, 2007. "Life-Work Balance During The Neolithic Revolution," Abante, Escuela de Administracion. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 10(2), pages 93-125.
  • Handle: RePEc:pch:abante:v:10:y:2007:i:2:p:93-125

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eckstein, Zvi & Stern, Steven & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1988. "Fertility Choice, Land, and the Malthusian Hypothesis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 29(2), pages 353-361, May.
    2. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
    3. Michele Boldrin & Larry E. Jones, 2002. "Mortality, Fertility, and Saving in a Malthusian Economy," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 775-814, October.
    4. 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.
    5. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2005. "From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 561-586, September.
    6. Razin, Assaf & Ben-Zion, Uri, 1975. "An Intergenerational Model of Population Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 923-933, December.
    7. Nerlove, Marc & Razin, Assaf & Sadka, Efraim, 1986. "Endogenous Population with Public Goods and Malthusian Fixed Resources: Efficiency or Market Failure," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 27(3), pages 601-609, October.
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    More about this item


    Life-work balance; paleoeconomics; Economic anthropology; Neolithic revolution;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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