Entertaining Malthus : bread, circuses, and economic growth
Economic inquiry, 2018, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 358-380
DUTTA, Rohan, LEVINE, David K., PAPAGEORGE, Nicholas W., WU, Lemin, Entertaining Malthus : bread, circuses, and economic growth, Economic inquiry, 2018, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 358-380 - https://hdl.handle.net/1814/59945
Retrieved from Cadmus, EUI Research Repository
Motivated by the basic adage that man does not live by bread alone, we offer a theory of historical economic growth and population dynamics where human beings need food to survive, but enjoy other things, too. Our model imposes a Malthusian constraint on food, but introduces a second good to the analysis that affects living standards without affecting population growth. We show that technological change does a good job explaining historical consumption patterns and population dynamics, including the Neolithic Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Great Divergence. Our theory stands in contrast to models that assume a single composite good and a Malthusian constraint. These models generate negligible growth prior to the Industrial Revolution. However, recent revisions to historical data show that historical living standards-though obviously much lower than today's-varied over time and space much more than previously thought. These revisions include updates to Maddison's dataset, which served as the basis for many papers taking long-run stagnation as a point of departure. This new evidence suggests that the assumption of long-run stagnation is problematic. Our model shows that when we give theoretical accounting of these new observations the Industrial Revolution is much less puzzling.
First published: 25 July 2017
Cadmus permanent link: https://hdl.handle.net/1814/59945
Full-text via DOI: 10.1111/ecin.12479
ISSN: 0095-2583; 1465-7295
Keyword(s): Demographic-transition Neolithic revolution Population-growth Great divergence Ancient-world Black-death Innovation Fertility Urbanization Stagnation
Sponsorship and Funder information:
NSF Grant [SES-08-51315]
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