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A meta-analysis of rates of return to agricultural R & D: ex pede Herculem?

  • Alston, Julian M.
  • Wyatt, T. J.
  • Pardey, Philip G.
  • Marra, Michele C.
  • Chan-Kang, Connie

IFPRI has long argued that spending on agricultural research constitutes a sound investment in poverty reduction and agricultural and economic growth, through improvements in productivity. This argument is based partly on the reported evidence of high rates of return to agricultural research, typically believed to be in the range of 40–60 percent per year. Yet there continues to be controversy over whether these figures are to be believed, and over what they actually indicate. This study represents the first attempt to take a comprehensive look at all the available evidence on rates of return to investments in agricultural R&D since 1953, and the only attempt to do so in a formal statistical fashion. This report has compiled and documented the literature in ways that make it more accessible and more useful to other researchers and policymakers, as well as others interested in the evidence. The analysis reveals some systematic patterns and some sources of biases that make it easier to interpret the evidence and draw meaningful conclusions. (Excerpted from Summary by Per Pinstrup-Andersen)

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Paper provided by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in its series Research reports with number 113.

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Date of creation: 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fpr:resrep:113
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  1. Moschini, GianCarlo & Lapan, Harvey E., 1999. "Intellectual Property Rights and the Welfare Effects of Agricultural R&D," Staff General Research Papers 1735, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  2. Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G. & Taylor, Michael J., 2001. "Agricultural science policy," Food policy statements 32, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  3. Alston, Julian M. & Venner, Raymond J., 2000. "The effects of the U.S. Plant Variety Protection Act on wheat genetic improvement:," EPTD discussion papers 62, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  4. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1990. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," NBER Working Papers 3506, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Mingxia Zhang, 1997. "The Effects of Imperfect Competition on the Size and Distribution of Research Benefits," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 79(4), pages 1252-1265.
  6. Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G. & Roseboom, Johannes, 1998. "Financing agricultural research: International investment patterns and policy perspectives," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 1057-1071, June.
  7. E. Pasour & Marc Johnson, 1982. "Bureaucratic productivity: The case of agricultural research revisited," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 301-317, January.
  8. Alston, Julian M. & Sexton, Richard J. & Zhang, Mingxia, 1999. "Imperfect competition, functional forms, and the size and distribution of research benefits," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 21(2), pages 155-172, October.
  9. Pardey, Philip G. & Roseboom, Johannes & Beintema, Nienke M., 1995. "Investments in African agricultural research:," EPTD discussion papers 14, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  10. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Michael Harris & Alan Lloyd, 1991. "The Returns to Agricultural Research and the Underinvestment Hypothesis - A Survey," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 24(3), pages 16-27.
  12. Fullerton, Don, 1991. "Reconciling Recent Estimates of the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 302-08, March.
  13. Pardey, Philip G. & Alston, Julian M. & Christian, Jason E. & Fan, Shenggen., 1996. "Hidden harvest," Food policy reports 6, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  14. Smith, V. Kerry & Osborne, Laura L., 1996. "Do Contingent Valuation Estimates Pass a "Scope" Test? A Meta-analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 287-301, November.
  15. R. K. Lindner & F. G. Jarrett, 1978. "Supply Shifts and the Size of Research Benefits," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 60(1), pages 48-58.
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