Feeding the People: Grain Yields and Agricultural Expansion in Qing China
26 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2018 Last revised: 11 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 13, 2018
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 Classification: N55, O13, O47.
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