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How Tight are Malthusian Constraints?

Listed author(s):
  • T. Ryan Johnson

    ()

    (University of Houston)

  • Dietrich Vollrath

    ()

    (University of Houston)

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.

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File URL: http://www.uh.edu/econpapers/RePEc/hou/wpaper/2017-192-55.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Houston in its series Working Papers with number 2017-192-55.

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Date of creation: 28 Jun 2017
Handle: RePEc:hou:wpaper:2017-192-55
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Houston TX 77023

Web page: http://www.uh.edu/class/economics/

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  1. Mesbah Motamed & Raymond Florax & William Masters, 2014. "Agriculture, transportation and the timing of urbanization: Global analysis at the grid cell level," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 339-368, September.
  2. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
  3. repec:hrv:faseco:33077825 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. David N. Weil & Joshua Wilde, 2009. "How Relevant Is Malthus for Economic Development Today?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 255-260, May.
  5. Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2011. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 593-650.
  6. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477, March.
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  8. Wilde, Joshua, 2012. "How substitutable are fixed factors in production? evidence from pre-industrial England," MPRA Paper 39278, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Timo Boppart, 2014. "Structural Change and the Kaldor Facts in a Growth Model With Relative Price Effects and Non‐Gorman Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 2167-2196, November.
  10. Kogel, Tomas & Prskawetz, Alexia, 2001. "Agricultural Productivity Growth and Escape from the Malthusian Trap," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 337-357, December.
  11. Mundlak, Yair & Butzer, Rita & Larson, Donald F., 2012. "Heterogeneous technology and panel data: The case of the agricultural production function," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 139-149.
  12. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory and Comparative Development," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 9-21, April-Jun.
  13. Frankema, Ewout & Papaioannou, Kostadis, 2017. "Rainfall Patterns and Human Settlement in Tropical Africa and Asia Compared. Did African Farmers Face Greater Insecurity?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11795, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Holger Strulik & Jacob Weisdorf, 2008. "Population, food, and knowledge: a simple unified growth theory," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 195-216, September.
  15. Charles J. Cook, 2011. "The Role of Lactose Tolerance in Pre-Colonial Development," Departmental Working Papers 2011-12, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
  16. Hayami, Yujiro & Ruttan, Vernon W, 1970. "Agricultural Productivity Differences Among Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(5), pages 895-911, December.
  17. Crafts, Nicholas & Mills, Terence C., 2009. "From Malthus to Solow: How did the Malthusian economy really evolve?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 68-93, March.
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