Of Maize and Men: The Effect of a New World Crop on Population and Economic Growth in China

43 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2012 Last revised: 6 Jan 2014

See all articles by Shuo Chen

Shuo Chen

Fudan University - Department of Economics

James Kai-Sing Kung

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Business and Economics

Date Written: November 1, 2013

Abstract

By applying a difference-in-differences (DID) analysis to the adoption of maize in China from around the mid-18th century onwards, we find that, like the potato in the Old World, maize accounted for 18% of the population increase in China during 1776-1910. Unlike the potato, however, this crop had no significant effect on economic growth. These findings corroborate narratives of China’s failure to industrialize at a time when Europe was experiencing sustained growth, and lend empirical support to the theoretical claim that under the Malthusian regime a new technology could only bring about population but not economic growth.

Keywords: Malthus, maize, population density, economic growth, China

JEL Classification: J1, N5, O11

Suggested Citation

Chen, Shuo and Kung, James Kai-Sing, Of Maize and Men: The Effect of a New World Crop on Population and Economic Growth in China (November 1, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2102295 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2102295

Shuo Chen (Contact Author)

Fudan University - Department of Economics ( email )

600 GuoQuan Road
Yangpu District
Shanghai, 200433
China

James Kai-Sing Kung

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Business and Economics ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong
China

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