Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 337–357 | Cite as

Agricultural Productivity Growth and Escape from the Malthusian Trap

  • Tomas Kögel
  • Alexia Prskawetz


Industrialization allowed the industrialized world of today to escape from the Malthusian regime characterized by low economic and population growth and to enter the post-Malthusian regime of high economic and population growth. To explain the transition between these regimes, we construct a growth model with two consumption goods (an agricultural and a manufacturing good), endogenous fertility, and endogenous technological progress in the manufacturing sector. We show that with an exogenous increase in the growth of agricultural productivity our model is able to replicate stylized facts of the British industrial revolution. The paper concludes by illustrating that our proposed model framework can be extended to include the demographic transition, i.e., a regime in which economic growth is associated with falling fertility.

fertility choice economic growth Malthusian trap technological change 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bailey, R. E., and M. J. Chambers. (1993). “Long-Term Demographic Interactions in Precensus England,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A) 156, 339-362.Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin, R. E., Martin, P., and G. I. P. Ottavio. (2001). “Global Income Divergence, Trade, and Industrialization: The Geography of Growth Take-Offs,” Journal of Economic Growth 6, 5-37.Google Scholar
  3. Baumol, W. J. (1967). “Macroeconomics of Unbalanced Growth: The Anatomy of Urban Crisis,” American Economic Review 57, 415-426.Google Scholar
  4. Birdsall, N. (1983). “Fertility and Economic Change in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Europe: A Comment,” Population and Development Review 9, 111-123.Google Scholar
  5. Ciccone, A. (1997). “Falling Real Wages During an Industrial Revolution.” mimeo, University of Berkeley, CA.Google Scholar
  6. Coale, A., and R. Treadway. (1986). “A Summary of the Changing Distribution of Overall Fertility, Marital Fertility, and the Proportion Married in the Provinces of Europe.” In A. Coale, and Watkins, S. (eds), The Decline of Fertility in Europe. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Crafts, N. F. R. (1985). “Income Elasticities of Demand and The Release of Labor by Agriculture During the British Industrial Revolution: A further Appraisal.” in. Mokyr, J. (ed.), The Economics of the Industrial Revolution. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld.Google Scholar
  8. Dalgaard, C.-J., and C. T. Kreiner. (2001). “Is Declining Productivity Inevitable?” Journal of Economic Growth 6, 187-203.Google Scholar
  9. Dyson, T., and M. Murphy. (1985). “The Onset of Fertility Transition,” Population and Development Review 11, 399-440.Google Scholar
  10. Edwards, B. K., and R. M. Starr. (1987). “A Note on Indivisibilities, Specialization, and Economies of Scale,” American Economic Review 77, 192-194.Google Scholar
  11. Ethier, W. (1982). “National and International Returns to Scale in the Modern Theory of International Trade,” American Economic Review 72, 533-544.Google Scholar
  12. Galor, O., and O. Moav. (2001). “Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth,” C.E.P.R. Discussion Paper No. 2727.Google Scholar
  13. Galor, O., and D. N. Weil. (1996). “The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth,” American Economic Review 86, 374-87.Google Scholar
  14. Galor, O., and D. N. Weil. (1999). “From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth,” American Economic Review 89, 150-154.Google Scholar
  15. Galor, O., and D. N. Weil. (2000). “Population, Technology, and Growth: From Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond,” American Economic Review 90, 806-828.Google Scholar
  16. Goodfriend, M., and J. McDermott. (1995). “Early Development,” American Economic Review 85, 116-133.Google Scholar
  17. Hansen, G. D., and E. C. Prescott. (2001). “Malthus to Solow,” mimeo, University of Minnesota, MN.Google Scholar
  18. Helpman, E., and P. R. Krugman. (1985). Market Structure and Foreign Trade: Increasing Returns, Imperfect Competition, and the International Economy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Jones, C. I. (1999). “Growth: With or Without Scale Effects?” American Economic Review 89, 139-144.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, C. I. (2001). “Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run,” Advances in Macroeconomics 1(2), Article 1. 1/iss2/art1.Google Scholar
  21. Kalemli-Ozcan, S. (2001). “Does Mortality Decline Promote Economic Growth?” Mimeo, University of Houston, TX.Google Scholar
  22. Kelly, M. (2001). “Linkages, Thresholds, and Development,” Journal of Economic Growth 6, 39-53.Google Scholar
  23. Kremer, M. (1993). “Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 108, 681-716.Google Scholar
  24. Lagerlöf, N.-P. (2001). “From Malthus to Modern Growth: Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?” Mimeo, Concordia University, Montreal QC, Canada.Google Scholar
  25. Lee, R. D. (1997). “Population Dynamics: Equilibrium, Disequilibrium, and Consequences of Fluctuations.” In Stark O., and Rosenzweig, M. (eds), The Handbook of Population and Family Economics (vol. 1B). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  26. Li, C.-W. (2000). “Endogenous vs. Semi-Endogenous Growth in a Two-R&D-Sector Model,” Economic Journal 110, 109-122.Google Scholar
  27. Lucas, R. E. (1998). The Industrial Revolution: Past and Future. Mimeo, University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  28. Maddison, A. (1991). Dynamic Forces in Capitalist Development: A Long Run Comparative View. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Malthus, T. R. (1798). An Essay on the Principle of Population. 1st ed. Reprint 1976, New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  30. Matsuyama, K. (1992). “Agricultural Productivity, Comparative Advantage, and Economic Growth,” Journal of Economic Theory 58, 317-334.Google Scholar
  31. Mitchell, B. R. (1988). British Historical Statistics. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Nelson, R. R. (1956). “A Theory of the Low Level Equilibrium Trap in Underdeveloped Economies,” American Economic Review 46, 894-908.Google Scholar
  33. Office for National Statistics. (1998). The Health of Adult Britain. CD-rom.Google Scholar
  34. Rostow, W. W. (1960). The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manufesto. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Sorensen, A. (1999). “R&D, Learning, and Phases of Economic Growth,” Journal of Economic Growth 4, 429-445.Google Scholar
  36. Steinmann, G., A. Prskawetz, and G. Feichtinger. (1998). “A Model on the Escape from the Malthusian Trap.” Journal of Population Economics 11, 535-550.Google Scholar
  37. Wrigley, E. A., and R. S. Schofield. (1981). The Population History of England 1541–1871, A Reconstruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Young, A. (1998). “Growth Without Scale Effects,” Journal of Political Economy 106, 41-63.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomas Kögel
    • 1
  • Alexia Prskawetz
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchRostockGermany

Personalised recommendations