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Made for Toil: Natural selection at the dawn of agriculture

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  • Jacob L. Weisdorf

    (Department of Economics - University of Copenhagen - KU - University of Copenhagen, PSE - Paris School of Economics, PJSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Abstract

The labour input among pre-historic foragers was normally rewarded within the same day of the effort. For the first farmers, by contrast, labour input and its rewards could be far apart. However, the patience was worthwhile: population growth rates among early agriculturalists were up to 60 times higher than those of their foraging counterparts. It is well-known from the biological science that humans differ with respect to metabolism. This study argues that rates of metabolism well-suited for the many hours of labour input required for farming gained an evolutionary advantage with the advent of agriculture. This theory helps shedding light on the puzzles why farming was adopted despite its high labour costs, and why people of agricultural societies work more than their foraging counterparts.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2007. "Made for Toil: Natural selection at the dawn of agriculture," PSE Working Papers halshs-00587788, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00587788
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00587788
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Smith, Vernon L, 1975. "The Primitive Hunter Culture, Pleistocene Extinction, and the Rise of Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 727-755, August.
    2. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    3. 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.
    4. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon Myers, 2006. "On the Early Holocene: Foraging to Early Agriculture," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 751-772, July.
    5. Clark, Gregory & Hamilton, Gillian, 2006. "Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 707-736, September.
    6. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
    7. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1990. "Malthusian Selection of Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 529-544, June.
    8. Arthur Robson & Hillard Kaplan, 2006. "Viewpoint: The economics of hunter-gatherer societies and the evolution of human characteristics," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 39(2), pages 375-398, May.
    9. Jack A. Goldstone, 2007. "Jack Goldstone on Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(3), pages 207-225, July.
    10. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
    11. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2007. "The Neolithic Revolution and Contemporary Variations in Life Expectancy," Working Papers 2007-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    12. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Introductory Chapters,in: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World Princeton University Press.
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