Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch by Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor. Published in volume , issue 5, pages of American Economic. This paper empirically tests the predictions of the Malthusian theory with respect to both population dynamics and income per capita stagnation. This paper examines the central hypothesis of the influential Malthusian theory, according to which improvements in the technological environment during the.

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The finding that the negative elasticity of income per capita with respect to distance to the frontier is not only statistically insignificant but also at least an order of magnitude smaller than that of population density confirms Malthusian priors that the gains from trade and technology diffusion were primarily channeled into population growth rather than to improvements in living standards during pre-industrial times.

Galor Oded, Moav Omer. Exploiting exogenous sources of cross-country variations in land productivity and the level of technological advancement the analysis demonstrates that, in accordance with the theory, technological superiority and higher land productivity had significant positive effects on population density but insignificant effects on the standard of living, during the time period 1— CE. Why did the First Farmers Epooch Thus, at any given point in time, a society that experienced the Neolithic Revolution earlier would have a longer history of these aftershocks and would therefore reflect a larger steady-state population size or, equivalently, a higher steady-state population density.

Trading Population for Productivity: Column 1 of Table 10 reveals the qualitative robustness of the full-sample regression results for population density in the year CE under controls for distance to the closest regional frontier as well as malthusia island and landlocked dummies.

Foreshadowing the qualitative robustness of the findings from previous sections, the logged indices of technology in the years CE and 1 CE are indeed highly correlated with the logged transition-timing variable. The conditional effects dynanics Neolithic transition timing and land productivity on income per capita versus population density in the year CE are depicted as partial regression lines on the scatter plots in Figures 4 a and 4 b for income per capita, stagnatiln in Figures 5 a and 5 b for population density.

For more details on the underlying data and the aggregation methodology employed to construct this index, the reader is referred to Peregrine and Comin, Easterly, and Gong The remainder of the analysis in this section is concerned with establishing the causal effect of technology on population density in the years CE and 1 CE.

Similarly, in the income per capita data-restricted samples employed in Section 4. Specifically, for a given time period, their procedure selects from each continent the two largest cities in that period, belonging to distinct sociopolitical entities.

The qualitative similarity of the results across periods also suggests that the empirical findings are indeed more plausibly associated with the Malthusian theory as opposed to being consistently generated by spurious correlations between population density and the explanatory variables of interest across the different historical periods. This strategy is pursued in Section 4. Individuals generate utility from consumption and the number of their surviving children: Interestingly, the epoch of Malthusian stagnation in income per capita masked a dynamism that may have ultimately brought about the phase transition that was associated with the take-off from the Malthusian regime.


Blackwell Publishers Ltd; In particular, the diffusion channel implies that, ceteris paribusthe greater the geographical distance from the technological leaders in a given period, the lower the level of economic development amongst the followers in that period. Consistent with Malthusian predictions, the regressions indicate highly statistically significant positive relationships between technological sophistication and population density in the two time periods.

European Review of Economic History. Members of generation t live for two periods. While agriculture originated in regions of the world to which the most valuable domesticable wild plant and animal species were native, other regions proved more fertile and climatically favorable once the diffusion of agricultural practices brought the domesticated varieties to them Diamond, The explanatory power of the regression in Column 3 improves by an additional 7 percentage points once controls for access to waterways are accounted for in Column 4, which constitutes the baseline regression specification for population density in CE.

In the course of the analysis, the paper generates three additional findings. From Stagnation to Growth: Columns 1—2 reveal the full-sample regression results for population density in the years CE and 1 CE. The final two columns in Table 2 report the results associated with a subsample of countries for which data on the biogeographical instruments are available.

In comparison to the relevant baseline regressions presented in Columns 1 and 4 of Table 5the coefficients associated with the transition-timing and land-productivity channels remain both qualitatively and quantitatively stable. In line with priors, the regressions in Columns 1 and 4 establish a highly statistically significant positive relationship between the timing of the Neolithic Revolution and the level of non-agricultural technological sophistication in each period, exploiting variation across the full sample of countries.

Finally, the partial regression lines associated with the period-specific indices of technology in the baseline regressions for population density in CE and 1 CE are depicted in Figures D. These findings therefore confirm the Malthusian prior that, in pre-industrial times, variations in the level of technological advancement were ultimately manifested as variations in population density as opposed to variations in the standard of living across regions.

Thus, the x- and y-axes plot the residuals obtained from regressing transition timing land productivity and population density, respectively, on the aforementioned set of covariates.

Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch

The same methodology is also employed to obtain population density for countries that exist today but were part of a larger political unit e. Population, Technology, and Growth: Aghion Philippe, Durlauf Steven N.

In line with this assertion, Table 1 reveals preliminary results indicating that an earlier onset of the Neolithic Revolution is indeed positively and significantly correlated with the level of technological sophistication in non-agricultural sectors of the economy in the years CE and 1 CE.


This section demonstrates the significant positive effects of land productivity stzgnation the level of technological advancement, as proxied by the timing of the Neolithic Revolution, on population density in the years CE and 1 CE.


This is accomplished by exploiting exogenous variation in thee level of technological advancement generated ultimately by differences in prehistoric biogeographical endowments that led to the differential timing of the transition to agriculture across countries. The farther the observations are from the degree line, the greater is the intertemporal variability.

While the results revealing the cross-country neutrality of income per capita, despite differences in aggregate productivity, are fully consistent with Malthusian predictions, there may exist potential concerns regarding the quality of the income per capita data employed by the current analysis.

NBER working papers are circulated for discussion mqlthusian comment purposes. The lower carrying capacities of these environments would, in turn, imply lower levels of human population density. A similar pattern also emerges for the estimated elasticities of population density and income per capita in each period with respect to the land-productivity channel. Importantly, the qualitative results remain robust to controls for the confounding effects of a large number of geographical factors, including absolute latitude, access to waterways, distance to the technological frontier, and the share of land in tropical versus temperate climatic zones, which may have had an impact on ih productivity either directly, by affecting the productivity of land, or indirectly via the prevalence of trade and the diffusion of technologies.


Since historical income per capita data are available for a relatively smaller set of countries, the analysis at hand also conducts corresponding tests for population density using the income per capita data-restricted samples for the three historical periods. The findings demonstrate that the effects of the Neolithic transition-timing, land-productivity, and spatial technology-diffusion channels on population density are indeed not spuriously driven by these additional climatological factors.

Moreover, the estimated coefficients on the additional geographical controls indicate significant effects consistent with the assertion that better access to waterways has been historically beneficial for economic development by fostering urbanization, international trade and technology diffusion.

It exploits exogenous sources of cross-country variation in land productivity and technological levels to examine their hypothesized differential effects on population density versus income per capita during the time period 1— CE.

The index of technological sophistication is constructed following the aggregation methodology of Diego Comin, William Easterly, and Erick Gong