The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Palgrave Macmillan

Population and Agricultural Growth

  • James Roumasset
Living reference work entry


Thinking about population as a driver of agricultural development provides insights into induced technical and institutional change, whether it be Ester Boserup’s declining fallow period, modern crop varieties, or the horizontal and vertical specialization that arise in labour-intensive agriculture. The non-convexities of research and development, infrastructure investments, and specialization imply that modest population pressure does not necessarily exert downward pressure on wages. As agricultural growth stimulates industrialization, the non-convexities of specialization become ever more compact. The combination of these and the increased demand for human capital, if not inhibited by policy failures, tends to promote a virtuous circle of human progress.


Black Death Capital intensity Child care Development economics Dismal science Division of labour Elasticity of substitution Endogenous growth theory Endogenous population growth Exchange labour Fertility Governance Human capital Immiserizing growth Indivisibilities Induced institutional change Induced technical change Industrialization Innovation possibility frontier Intergenerational neutrality Kuznets curve Labour intensification Labour market contracts Labour productivity Learning-by-doing Leisure Malthus’s theory of population Mortality Natural capital New classical economics New household economics Non-convexity Population and agricultural growth Population growth Poverty alleviation Property rights Rent seeking Research and development Resource depletion Shadow pricing Sharecropping Specialization Spot markets Steady state Subsistence Sustainability criteria Sustainable development Transaction costs 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Ahmad, S. 1966. On the theory of induced invention. Economic Journal 76: 344–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arrow, K.J., P. Dasgupta, L.H. Goulder, G.C. Daily, P. Ehrlich, G. Heal, S. Levin, K.-G. Maler, S.H. Schneider, D. Starrett, and B. Walker. 2004. Are we consuming too much? Journal of Economic Perspectives 18(3): 147–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrett, S. 1991. Optimal soil conservation and reform of agricultural pricing policies. Journal of Development Economics 36: 167–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrett, C.B., T. Reardon, and P. Webb. 2001. Non-farm income diversification and household livelihood strategies in rural Africa: Concepts, dynamics and policy implications. Food Policy 26: 315–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Binswanger, H.P., and V.W. Ruttan. 1978. Induced innovation: Technology, institutions, and development. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Boserup, E. 1965. The conditions of agricultural growth. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  7. Boserup, E. 1981. Population and technological change: A study of long-term trends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Boserup, E. 1987. Agricultural growth and population change. In The new palgrave: A dictionary of economics, vol. 1, ed. J. Eatwell, M. Milgate, and P. Newman. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  9. Brundtland Commission. 1987. Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, G. 2007. A farewell to alms: A brief economic history of the world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Evans, L.T. 1998. Feeding the ten billion: Plants and population growth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Evenson, R.E. 1982. The green revolution in north Indian agriculture: Ex post assessment. Mimeo: Yale University.Google Scholar
  13. Evenson, R.E. 2004. Food and population: D. Gale Johnson and the green revolution. Economic Development and Cultural Change 52: 543–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Greif, A. 2006. Institutions and the path to economic modernity: Lessons from medieval trade. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hayami, Y., and V.W. Ruttan. 1985. Agricultural development: An international perspective. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Johnston, B.F. 1970. Agriculture and structural transformation in developing countries: A survey of research. Journal of Economic Literature 8: 369–404.Google Scholar
  17. Kelley, A.C. 1988. Economic consequences of population change in the third world. Journal of Economic Literature 26: 1685–1728.Google Scholar
  18. Kirch, P.V. 1985. Feathered gods and fishhooks: An introduction to Hawaiian archaeology and prehistory. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kremer, M. 1993. Population growth and technological change: One million BC to 1990. Quarterly Journal of Economics 108: 681–716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Krautkraemer, J. 1994. Population growth, soil fertility, and agricultural intensification. Journal of Development Economics 44: 403–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lucas, R.E. 2002. Lectures on economic growth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lueck, D. 1998. First possession. In The new palgrave dictionary of economics and the law, ed. P. Newman. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  23. Malthus, T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  24. North, D.C., and R.P. Thomas. 1973. The rise of the western world: A new economic history. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pender, J. 2001. Rural population growth, agricultural change and natural resource management in developing countries: A review of hypotheses and some evidence from Honduras. In Population matters: Demographic change, poverty and economic growth in developing countries, ed. N. Birdsall, S. Sinding, and A. Kelley. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Pingali, P. 2006. Agricultural growth and economic development: A view through the globalization lens. Presidential Address, International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Conference, Queensland.Google Scholar
  27. Ricardo, D. 1817. On the principles of political economy and taxation. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  28. Roumasset, J. 2004. Rural institutions, agricultural development, and pro-poor economic growth. Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development 1: 61–82.Google Scholar
  29. Ruttan, V.W., and Y. Hayami. 1973. Technology transfer and agricultural development. Technology and Culture 14: 119–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Weitzman, M.L. 1997. Sustainability and technological progress. Scandinavian Journal of Economics 99: 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. World Bank. 1984. World bank development report: Population change and development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Yang, X. 2003. Economic development and the division of labor. New York: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Roumasset
    • 1
  1. 1.