Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Discussion Paper Series in Economics,
Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics

No 27/2018: Feeding the people: grain yields and agricultural expansion in Qing China

Liam Brunt () and Antonio Fidalgo ()
Additional contact information
Liam Brunt: Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: NHH , Department of Economics, Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway
Antonio Fidalgo: Fresenius University of Applied Sciences

Abstract: We use modern econometric methods to analyze a recently-released sample of 3 000 Chinese grain yields. We find significant variation across provinces and persistent increases in yields over time – albeit slow compared to Europe and the New World. Growth rates for rice (the primary southern crop) and dry land crops (the primary northern crops) were similar. We show that provinces were more extensively farmed when yields and population pressure were high, and that extending production put downward pressure on yields. Overall, Chinese farmers avoided the problem of agricultural involution by efficiently boosting output at the extensive margin, not the intensive margin.

Keywords: Agricultural involution; productivity; growth

JEL-codes: N55; O13; O47

19 pages, December 13, 2018

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