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Made for Toil: Natural selection at the dawn of agriculture

  • Jacob L. Weisdorf

    (Department of Economics - University of Copenhagen - University of Copenhagen, EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris)

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.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series PSE Working Papers with number halshs-00587788.

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Date of creation: Nov 2007
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Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00587788
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  1. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon Myers, 2006. "On the Early Holocene: Foraging to Early Agriculture," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 751-772, 07.
  2. Jack A. Goldstone, 2007. "Jack Goldstone on Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(3), pages 207-225, July.
  3. 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.
  4. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2003. "From Foraging to Farming: Explaining the Neolithic Revolution," Discussion Papers 03-41, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  5. Gregory Clark & Gillian Hamilton, 2006. "Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England," Working Papers 615, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  6. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs Jr., Douglas A., 2000. "Biogeography and Long-Run Economic Development," Working Papers in Economics 26, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 11 Aug 2000.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 727-55, August.
  9. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2007. "The Neolithic Revolution and Contemporary Variations in Life Expectancy," Working Papers 2007-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  10. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2000. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," Arbetsrapport 2000:5, Institute for Futures Studies.
  11. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
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    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  12. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1990. "Malthusian Selection of Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 529-44, June.
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