Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Potato Economics

Always on the look out for new branches of economics come an unmissable paper from Nathan Nunn and Nabcy Qian from British Columbia and Yale respectively.

The abstract reveals the enormous impact of the Solanum tuberosum on world population growth and unbanisation. This is a great "globalisation" is good story. Without the marauding Europeans in the Americas and Columbus (1492) bringing the spud back to Spain, Europe would still be a agricultural backwater.

The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment

Nathan Nunn
University of British Columbia - Department of Economics

Nancy Qian
Yale University - Department of Economics

July 2009

CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP7364

We exploit regional variation in suitability for cultivating potatoes, together with time variation arising from their introduction to the Old World from the Americas, to estimate the impact of potatoes on Old World population and urbanization. Our results show that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a significant portion of the increase in population and urbanization observed during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Keywords: agriculture, Columbian Exchange, Demography, Economic Development, Industrialization, potato

JEL Classifications: J1, N1, N5, O14
Working Paper Series

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