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