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Famine, Finance, and Adjustment to Environmental Shock: Microcredit and the Great Famine in Ireland


  • Goodspeed, Tyler


The Great Famine of Ireland from 1845-51 ranks as one of the most lethal of all time, claiming approximately one eighth of the country’s population. Utilizing Famine Relief Commission reports to develop a micro-level dataset of blight severity, I find that in the short run, districts more severely infected by blight experienced larger population declines and accumulations of buffer livestock. In the medium and long runs, however, worse affected districts experienced greater substitutions toward other tillage crops and grazing livestock. Using annual reports of the Irish Loan Funds, I further find that access to microfinance credit was an important factor in short- and long-run adjustment to blight. Districts with at least one microfinance fund during the Famine experienced substantially smaller population declines and larger increases in buffer livestock during and immediately after the Famine, and greater medium- and long-run substitutions toward other crops and grazing livestock, than districts without a fund.

Suggested Citation

  • Goodspeed, Tyler, 2013. "Famine, Finance, and Adjustment to Environmental Shock: Microcredit and the Great Famine in Ireland," MPRA Paper 50324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:50324

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hollis, Aidan & Sweetman, Arthur, 2004. "Microfinance and Famine: The Irish Loan Funds during the Great Famine," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(9), pages 1509-1523, September.
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    5. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-591, May.
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    More about this item


    microfinance; famine; development; economic history; agriculture; adjustment;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q00 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - General

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