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How Tight are Malthusian Constraints?

Author

Listed:
  • T. Ryan Johnson

    () (University of Houston)

  • Dietrich Vollrath

    () (University of Houston)

Abstract

We provide a methodology to estimate the elasticity of agricultural output with respect to land - the Malthusian constraint - using variation in rural densities across different locations. We use district-level data from around the globe on rural densities and inherent agricultural productivity to estimate the elasticity for various sub-samples. We find the elasticity is highest in areas that are suitable for temperate crops such as wheat or rye, and loosest in areas suitable for (sub)-tropical crops such as cassava or rice. We show theoretically that a higher elasticity results in greater sensitivity of non-agricultural employment and real income per capita to shocks in population size and productivity, and confirm this with evidence from the post-war mortality transition.

Suggested Citation

  • T. Ryan Johnson & Dietrich Vollrath, 2017. "How Tight are Malthusian Constraints?," Working Papers 2017-192-55, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
  • Handle: RePEc:hou:wpaper:2017-192-55
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    File URL: http://www.uh.edu/econpapers/RePEc/hou/wpaper/2017-192-55.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    land constraints; Malthusian stagnation; agriculture; land elasticity;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O44 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Environment and Growth
    • Q10 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - General

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