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How Tight are Malthusian Constraints?

T. Ryan Johnson () and Dietrich Vollrath ()
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T. Ryan Johnson: University of Houston

No 2017-192-55, Working Papers from Department of Economics, University of Houston

Abstract: We provide a methodology to estimate the elasticity of agricultural output with respect to land - the Malthusian constraint - using variation in rural densities across different locations. We use district-level data from around the globe on rural densities and inherent agricultural productivity to estimate the elasticity for various sub-samples. We find the elasticity is highest in areas that are suitable for temperate crops such as wheat or rye, and loosest in areas suitable for (sub)-tropical crops such as cassava or rice. We show theoretically that a higher elasticity results in greater sensitivity of non-agricultural employment and real income per capita to shocks in population size and productivity, and confirm this with evidence from the post-war mortality transition.

Keywords: land constraints; Malthusian stagnation; agriculture; land elasticity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O1 O13 O44 Q10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr
Date: 2017-06-28
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