Technological Progress, Population Growth, Property Rights, and the Transition to Agriculture
Following the rapidly growing literature on the Neolithic revolution, I develop a model of mankind’s initial transition to agriculture in which population and technological sophistication are both endogenous variables. I assume that total factor productivity in both agriculture and hunting and gathering depend on natural resource endowments and a general purpose technology, but that TFP in agriculture is relatively more dependent on technological sophistication than TFP in hunting and gathering, and that agriculture requires effort be expended in land enclosure. The model describes combinations of population pressure, technological sophistication, and resource endowments that are sufficient to generate a switch to agriculture and enclosure, but also admits the possibility that no switch will occur. I estimate the steady-state relationships of the model by applying a two-state, two-equation model with endogenous regime switching using information on the incidence of agriculture, population density, technology, and environment among 186 pre-modern societies. I find that habitat diversity, a relatively flat landscape, and exceptionally heavy rainfall are among factors contributing to total factor productivity in hunting and gathering, while soil quality, climate suitability and proximity to an ocean increase total factor productivity in agriculture. I also estimate that roughly ten percent of TFP in agriculture can be attributed to technological sophistication, while TFP in hunting and gathering is not influenced by technology. Among other things, I find evidence that endogenous growth effects may be responsible for approximately 40% of observed technological sophistication among agricultural societies, but do not appear important among hunter-gatherers
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