, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 359–396 | Cite as

On the causes of economic growth in Europe: why did agricultural labour productivity not converge between 1950 and 2005?

  • Miguel Martín-Retortillo
  • Vicente Pinilla
Original Paper


The objective of this study is to make a further contribution to the debate on the causes of economic growth in the European Continent. It explains why agricultural labour productivity differences did not converge between 1950 and 2005 in Europe. We propose an econometric model, one combining both proximate and fundamental causes of economic growth. The results show that the continuous exit of labour power from the sector, coupled with the increased use of productive factors originating in other sectors of the economy, caused the efficiency of agricultural workers to rise. However, we offer a complete explanation of the role played by institutions and geographical factors. Thus, we detect a direct and inverse relation between membership of the EU and the Communist bloc and the productivity of agricultural labour. In addition, strong support for agriculture affected productivity negatively.


Agricultural labour productivity European agriculture European economic history Causes of economic growth 

JEL Classification

N50 N54 O13 Q10 



This study has received financial support from the Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain, project ECO 2012-33286 and the Ministry of Education’s FPU Programme, and from the Government of Aragon and the European Social Fund, through the Research Group “Agrifood Economic History (nineteenth and twentieth centuries)”. We are grateful for the comments received from the editor and from the anonymous referees as well as the participants in the Economic History Seminar at the University of Zaragoza, the Rural History 2010 Conference (University of Sussex), the First Annual Conference of the Spanish Agricultural History Society (SEHA), the First Quantitative Agricultural and Natural Resources History Conference (Agricliometrics I, 2011), the Agriculture and Economic Development in Europe Conference organised by the Russian Academy of National Economy, the Gaidar Forum and the New Economic School of Moscow (2012), the VII European Historical Economics Society Summer School and for those made by Bob Allen, Ernesto Clar, Domingo Gallego, Peter Moser, Cormac Ó Gráda, Josep Pujol, Joan Rosés, Mar Rubio and Daniel Tirado. We also wish to thank Ana Angulo, Francisco Beltrán, Fernando Collantes, Michael Kopsidis and Mark Spoerer for their help, and Roberto Serrano for his work with the geographical variables.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Economics and Economic History, Faculty of Economics and Business StudiesUniversidad de ZaragozaZaragozaSpain

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