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Many hands make hard work, or why agriculture is not a puzzle

Ricardo Guzmán ()

MPRA Paper from University Library of Munich, Germany

Abstract: The shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture, some 10,000 years ago, triggered the first demographic explosion in history. Along with population, working time increased, while food consumption remained at the subsistence level. For that reason, most anthropologists regard the adoption of agriculture as an economical puzzle. I show, using a neoclassical economic model, that there is nothing puzzling about the adoption of agriculture. Agriculture brings four technological changes: an increase in total factor productivity, a stabilization of total factor productivity, less interference of children on production, and the possibility of food storage. In my model, each of those changes induces free, rational and self-interested hunter-gatherers to adopt agriculture. As a result, working time increases while consumption remains at the subsistence level, and population begins to grow until diminishing returns to labor bring it to a halt. Welfare, which depends on consumption, leisure, and fertility, rises at first; but after a few generations it falls below its initial level. Still, the adoption of agriculture is irreversible. The latter generations choose to remain farmers because, at their current levels of population, reverting to hunting and gathering would reduce their welfare.

Keywords: Paleoeconomics; economic anthropology; Neolithic Revolution; hunter-gatherers; agriculture; original affluent society (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D6 A14 Z1 D71 I31 D1 J22 A12 J13 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2007-01-28, Revised 2007-08-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-dge and nep-lab
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
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https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/4148/1/MPRA_paper_4148.pdf original version (application/pdf)
https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/9575/1/MPRA_paper_9575.pdf revised version (application/pdf)
https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/9607/2/MPRA_paper_9607.pdf revised version (application/pdf)

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