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Technological Progress, Population Growth, Property Rights, and the Transition to Agriculture

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  • Matthew J. Baker

    () (United States Naval Academy)

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew J. Baker, 2005. "Technological Progress, Population Growth, Property Rights, and the Transition to Agriculture," Departmental Working Papers 9, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:usn:usnawp:9
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    File URL: http://www.usna.edu/EconDept/RePEc/usn/wp/usnawp9.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 727-755, August.
    2. Douglas A Hibbs, Jr. & Ola Olsson, 2003. "Geography, Biogeography and the International Distribution of Prosperity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 666156000000000001, David K. Levine.
    3. Baker, Matthew & Miceli, Thomas J., 2005. "Land inheritance rules: theory and cross-cultural analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 77-102, January.
    4. Skaperdas, Stergios, 1992. "Cooperation, Conflict, and Power in the Absence of Property Rights," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 720-739, September.
    5. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
    6. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon M. Myers, 2000. "From Foraging to Agriculture," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 103, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
    7. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 150-154, May.
    8. Galor, Oded & Weil, David N, 1996. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 374-387.
    9. Matthew J. Baker, 2003. "An Equilibrium Conflict Model of Land Tenure in Hunter-Gatherer Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 124-173, February.
    10. Grossman, Herschel I & Kim, Minseong, 1995. "Swords or Plowshares? A Theory of the Security of Claims to Property," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1275-1288, December.
    11. de Meza, David & Gould, J R, 1992. "The Social Efficiency of Private Decisions to Enforce Property Rights," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 561-580, June.
    12. Olsson, Ola, 2001. "The Rise of Neolithic Agriculture," Working Papers in Economics 57, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    13. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2005. "From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, pages 561-586.
    14. Locay, Luis, 1997. "Population equilibrium in primitive societies," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 747-767.
    15. Locay, Luis, 1989. "From Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(4), pages 737-756, July.
    16. Arthur J. Robson, 2007. "A 'Bioeconomic' View of the Neolithic and Recent Demographic Transitions," Discussion Papers dp07-02, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Horan, Richard D. & Shogren, Jason F. & Bulte, Erwin H., 2008. "Competitive Exclusion, Diversification, and the Origins of Agriculture," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6410, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    2. Bulte, Erwin H. & Horan, Richard D. & Shogren, Jason F., 2006. "Coevolutionary Investments in Human Speech and Trade," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21318, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

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