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Agriculture, Transportation and the Timing of Urbanization: Global Analysis at the Grid Cell Level

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  • Mesbah J. Motamed

    (United States Department of Agriculture, United States)

  • Raymond J.G.M. Florax

    (Purdue University, United States; and VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

  • William A. Masters

    (Tufts University, United States)

Abstract

This paper addresses the timing of a location's historical transition from rural to urban activity. We test whether urbanization occurs sooner in places with higher agricultural potential and comparatively lower transport costs, using worldwide data that divide the earth's surface at half-degree intervals into 62,290 cells. From an independent estimate of each cell's rural and urban population history over the last 2,000 years, we identify the date at which each cell achieves various thresholds of urbanization. Controlling for unobserved heterogeneity across countries through fixed effects and using a variety of spatial econometric techniques, we find a robust association between earlier urbanization and agro-climatic suitability for cultivation, having seasonal frosts, better access to the ocean or navigable rivers, and lower elevation. These geographic correlations become smaller in magnitude as urbanization proceeds, and there is some variance in effect sizes across continents. Aggregating cells into countries, we show that an earlier urbanization date is associated with higher per capita income today. Published in the 'Journal of Economic Growth' , 2014, 19(3), 339-368.

Suggested Citation

  • Mesbah J. Motamed & Raymond J.G.M. Florax & William A. Masters, 2014. "Agriculture, Transportation and the Timing of Urbanization: Global Analysis at the Grid Cell Level," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-002/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20140002
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    Cited by:

    1. Vandercasteelen, Joachim & Beyene, Seneshaw Tamru & Minten, Bart & Swinnen, Johan, 2018. "Cities and agricultural transformation in Africa: Evidence from Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 383-399.
    2. Frick, Susanne A. & Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés, 2018. "Change in urban concentration and economic growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 156-170.
    3. repec:taf:rjusxx:v:22:y:2018:i:1:p:123-144 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:transa:v:100:y:2017:i:c:p:319-336 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. T. Ryan Johnson & Dietrich Vollrath, 2017. "How Tight are Malthusian Constraints?," Working Papers 2017-192-55, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
    6. Christensen, Peter & McCord, Gordon C., 2016. "Geographic determinants of China's urbanization," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 90-102.
    7. Flückiger, Matthias & Ludwig, Markus, 2017. "Malaria suitability, urbanization and persistence: Evidence from China over more than 2000 years," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 146-160.
    8. Jedwab, Remi & Vollrath, Dietrich, 2015. "Urbanization without growth in historical perspective," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1-21.
    9. Mark Dincecco & Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato, 2016. "Military conflict and the rise of urban Europe," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 259-282, September.
    10. Agata Mesjasz-Lech & Aleksandra Szczepańska, 2015. "Development of Suburbanization in the Context of Socio-economic Changes in Urban Areas on the Example of Poland," Volume of Management, Enterprise and Benchmarking in the 21st century II, Óbuda University, Keleti Faculty of Business and Management.
    11. Sabyasachi Tripathi & Chetana Rani, 2018. "The impact of agricultural activities on urbanization: evidence and implications for India," International Journal of Urban Sciences, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(1), pages 123-144, January.
    12. McClain, Verena & Waldorf, Brigitte, 2017. "Borrowing From The Demographer's Toolbox: Longitudinal Methods in Regional Science," Working papers 264970, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic growth; economic geography; urbanization; agriculture; transportation;

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

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