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The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment

  • Nathan Nunn
  • Nancy Qian

We exploit regional variation in suitability for cultivating potatoes, together with time variation arising from their introduction to the Old World from the Americas, to estimate the impact of potatoes on Old World population and urbanization. Our results show that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a significant portion of the increase in population and urbanization observed during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15157.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment" Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian Quarterly Journal of Economics (2011) 126 (2): 593-650.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15157
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  1. Nunn, Nathan & Puga, Diego, 2007. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 6253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. David Cutler & Angus Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2005. "The Determinants of Mortality," Working Papers 164, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  3. Nunn, Nathan & Qian, Nancy, 2010. "The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas," Scholarly Articles 11986330, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Richard Tiffin & Xavier Irz, 2006. "Is agriculture the engine of growth?," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 35(1), pages 79-89, 07.
  5. Nico Voigtländer & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2006. "Why England? Demographic factors, structural change and physical capital accumulation during the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 319-361, December.
  6. Galor, Oded, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 4581, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  8. O Rourke, Kevin H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2002. "When did globalisation begin?," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(01), pages 23-50, April.
  9. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  10. Nathan Nunn, 2007. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," NBER Working Papers 13367, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. van Driel, Hans & Nadall, Venuta & Zeelenberg, Kees, 1997. "The Demand for Food in the United States and the Netherlands: A Systems Approach with the CBS Model: Reply," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(5), pages 530-32, Sept.-Oct.
  12. David Cutler & Grant Miller, 2005. "The role of public health improvements in health advances: The twentieth-century United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 1-22, February.
  13. Komlos, John & Hau, Michel & Bourginat, Nicolas, 2003. "An Anthropometric History of Early-Modern France," Discussion Papers in Economics 54, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  14. Thomas Grennes, 2007. "The Columbian Exchange and the Reversal of Fortune," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 27(1), pages 91-107, Winter.
  15. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521553889 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. van Driel, Hans & Nadall, Venuta & Zeelenberg, Kees, 1997. "The Demand for Food in the United States and the Netherlands: A Systems Approach with the CBS Model," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(5), pages 509-23, Sept.-Oct.
  17. Xin Meng & Nancy Qian, 2009. "The Long Term Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from a Unique Natural Experiment using China's Great Famine," NBER Working Papers 14917, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Robert W. Fogel, 1984. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Bruce E. Hansen, 2001. "The New Econometrics of Structural Change: Dating Breaks in U.S. Labour Productivity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 117-128, Fall.
  20. Oded Galor, 2006. "The Demographic Transition," Working Papers 2006-24, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  21. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
  22. Allen, Robert C., 2008. "The Nitrogen Hypothesis and the English Agricultural Revolution: A Biological Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(01), pages 182-210, March.
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