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The Neolithic Revolution from a Price-Theoretic Perspective


  • Ricardo Andrés Guzmán

    (Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile)

  • Jacob Louis Weisdorf

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)


The adoption of agriculture during the Neolithic period triggered the first demographic explosion in history. When fertility returned to its original level, agriculturalists were more numerous, more poorly nourished, and worked longer hours than their hunter-gatherer ancestors. We develop a dynamic price-theoretic model that rationalizes these events. In the short run, people are lured into agriculture by the increased labor productivity of both adults and children. In the long run, the growth in population overrides the productivity gains, and the later generations of agriculturalists end up being worse off than the hunter-gatherers. Counter-intuitively, the increase in the labor productivity of children causes the long-run reduction in welfare. In the long run, the increase in adult labor productivity only contributes to population growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo Andrés Guzmán & Jacob Louis Weisdorf, 2010. "The Neolithic Revolution from a Price-Theoretic Perspective," Discussion Papers 10-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:1013

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Weisdorf, Jacob, 2009. "Why did the first farmers toil? Human metabolism and the origins of agriculture," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 157-172, August.
    6. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2003. "Stone Age Economics: The Origins of Agriculture and the Emergence of Non-Food Specialists," Discussion Papers 03-34, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    7. Seabright, Paul, 2008. "Warfare and the Multiple Adoption of Agriculture After the Last Ice Age," IDEI Working Papers 522, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
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    13. Arthur J. Robson, 2010. "A bioeconomic view of the Neolithic transition to agriculture," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 43(1), pages 280-300, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2015. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Diffusion of Agriculture," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 589-609, July.
    2. Lemin Wu & Rohan Dutta & David K Levine & Nicholas W Papageorge, 2014. "Entertaining Malthus: Bread, Circuses and Economic Growth," Levine's Bibliography 786969000000000853, UCLA Department of Economics.
    3. Tisdell, Clem & Svizzero, Serge, 2016. "Different Behavioral Explanations of the Neolithic Transition from Foraging to Agriculture: A Review," Economic Theory, Applications and Issues Working Papers 229769, University of Queensland, School of Economics.

    More about this item


    Neolithic Revolution; hunter-gatherers; child labor; Thomas Malthus;

    JEL classification:

    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries

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