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The Growth of Agricultural Output and Food Supply in Meiji Japan: Economic Miracle or Statistical Artifact?


  • Bassino, Jean-Pascal


It is generally accepted that agriculture played a crucial role in Japanese economic development during the Meiji period (1868-1912). According to the Long-Term Economic Statistics of Japan estimates, per capita food consumption grew by 1.1% annually in constant yen between 1874 and 1912. Food-supply data converted into caloric intake indicate a growth of 1.0%, representing a leap from about 1,500 to 2,200 calories per person per day. This spectacular improvement in living standards resulting from induced innovation has affected the analyses of the role of agriculture as well as economic development strategies for twentieth-century developing countries. However, these estimates of staple food consumption appear to be at odds with data from late nineteenth-century surveys: there is mounting evidence that this aspect of the Meiji economic miracle is the result of a statistical artifact.

Suggested Citation

  • Bassino, Jean-Pascal, 2006. "The Growth of Agricultural Output and Food Supply in Meiji Japan: Economic Miracle or Statistical Artifact?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 503-520, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:y:2006:v:54:i:2:p:503-20

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yujiro Hayami & Cristina C. David & Piedad Flores‐Moya & Masao Kikuchi, 1978. "Agricultural Growth Against A Land Resource Constraint: The Philippine Experience: Reply," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 22(2-3), pages 210-210, 08-12.
    2. Kelley, Allen C. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1971. "Writing History Backwards: Meiji Japan Revisited," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(04), pages 729-776, December.
    3. Ardeni, Pier Giorgio & Freebairn, John, 2002. "The macroeconomics of agriculture," Handbook of Agricultural Economics,in: B. L. Gardner & G. C. Rausser (ed.), Handbook of Agricultural Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 28, pages 1455-1485 Elsevier.
    4. Yasuba, Yasukichi, 1986. "Standard of Living in Japan Before Industrialization: From What Level Did Japan Begin? A Comment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(01), pages 217-224, March.
    5. Komlos, John, 1998. "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 779-802, September.
    6. Hayami, Yujiro & Ruttan, V W, 1970. "Factor Prices and Technical Change in Agricultural Development: The United States and Japan, 1880-1960," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(5), pages 1115-1141, Sept.-Oct.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jean-Pascal Bassino & Kyoji Fukao & Ralph Paprzycki & Tokihiko Settsu & Tangjun Yuan, 2010. "Regional Inequality and Industrial Structures in Pre-War Japan: An Analysis Based on New Prefectural GDP Estimates," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd10-138, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    2. Bassino, Jean-Pascal, 2006. "Inequality in Japan (1892-1941): Physical stature, income, and health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 62-88, January.

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