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Of maize and men: the effect of a New World crop on population and economic growth in China

Authors Chen, Shuo
Kung, James K.S. View this author's profile
Issue Date 2016
Source Journal of Economic Growth , v. 21, (1), March 2016, p. 71-99
Summary We examine the question of whether China was trapped within a Malthusian regime at a time when Western Europe had all but emerged from it. By applying a difference-in-differences analysis to maize adoption in China from 1600 to 1910, we find that cultivation of this New World crop failed to raise per capita income. While maize accounted for a nearly 19 % increase in the Chinese population during 1776-1910, its effect on urbanization and real wages was not pronounced. Our results are robust to different sample selection procedures, to the control of variables pertinent to Malthusian "positive checks", to different measures of economic growth and to data modifications. Our study thus provides rich empirical support to the claim that under the conditions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China, new agricultural technologies led to the Malthusian outcome of population growth without wage increases and urbanization.
ISSN 1381-4338
Language English
Format Article
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