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The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence

  • Ashraf, Quamrul
  • Michalopoulos, Stelios

This research examines theoretically and empirically the origins of agriculture. The theory highlights the role of climatic sequences as a fundamental determinant of both technological sophistication and population density in a hunter-gatherer regime. It argues that foragers facing volatile environments were forced to take advantage of their productive endowments at a faster pace. Consequently, as long as climatic shocks preserved the possibility for agriculture, differences in the rate at which foragers were climatically propelled to exploit their habitat determined the comparative evolution of hunter-gatherer societies towards farming. The theory is tested using both cross-country and cross-archaeological site data on the emergence of farming. Consistent with the theory, the empirical analysis demonstrates that, conditional on biogeographic endowments, climatic volatility has a non-monotonic effect on the timing of the transition to agriculture. Farming was undertaken earlier in regions characterized by intermediate levels of climatic volatility, with regions subjected to either too high or too low intertemporal variability transiting later.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 23137.

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Date of creation: 31 May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:23137
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  1. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2003-41, August.
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  3. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2012. "Cultural Diversity, Geographical Isolation, and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," IZA Discussion Papers 6319, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Douglass C. North & Robert Paul Thomas, 1977. "The First Economic Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 30(2), pages 229-241, 05.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 110, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  8. Matthew Baker, 2008. "A structural model of the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 257-292, December.
  9. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2000. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," Arbetsrapport 2000:5, Institute for Futures Studies.
  10. Olsson, Ola, 2001. "The Rise of Neolithic Agriculture," Working Papers in Economics 57, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  11. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2008. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 7057, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2005. "From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 561-586, 09.
  13. Oded Galor & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Process of Development," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 111, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  14. 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.
  15. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Malthus to Solow," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1205-1217, September.
  16. Oded Galor & Quamrul Ashraf, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Working Papers 2007-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  17. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  18. John Luke Gallup & Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew D. Mellinger, 1999. "Geography and Economic Development," International Regional Science Review, SAGE Publishing, vol. 22(2), pages 179-232, August.
  19. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed & Nancy Olewiler, 2009. "Climate reversals and the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 27-53, March.
  20. 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.
  21. Michael Kremer, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716.
  22. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2003. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Can Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 755-777, 05.
  23. Locay, Luis, 1989. "From Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(4), pages 737-56, July.
  24. 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.
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