Tommaso Porzio, 12 August 2018

The share of the population employed in agriculture across the globe declined steeply over the second half of the 20thcentury. This coincided with an unprecedented increase in average years of schooling. This column explores whether these two trends are related. The results lend support to the idea that increased schooling led more workers to sort out of agricultural work. Whether reallocation out of agriculture has been beneficial for growth, however, remains to be seen.  

Peter Jensen, Markus Lampe, Paul Sharp, Christian Skovsgaard, 08 June 2018

Denmark is a paragon of economic development because it rapidly modernised its agriculture 150 years ago by using technology and cooperatives. This column argues that Denmark's development story has in fact been misrepresented. Rapid agricultural development was the end of a process begun by landed elites in the 18th century. It may be a mistake to cite the case of Denmark to argue that a country with a lot of peasants and cows can cooperate its way out of underdevelopment.

Finn Tarp, 16 April 2018

In economies like Viet Nam, policy agendas are increasingly data-driven. In this video, Finn Tarp shares five key policy goals for the country, based on data-rich household surveys. A combination of all five, including increasing productivty and innovation in and out of the agricultural sector, are needed to promote long-term growth.

Kostadis Papaioannou, Ewout Frankema, 15 June 2017

Tropical Asia has historically hosted larger and denser agricultural civilisations than tropical Africa. Using colonial-era rainfall and population data, this column explores the role of climatological conditions in the development of dense rural populations in the two regions. Rainfall shocks were both more frequent and severe in Africa than in Asia, lending support to the argument that ecological barriers to agricultural intensification were more challenging in tropical Africa than elsewhere.

Kazutaka Takechi, 05 February 2017

The trade patterns of agricultural products, which are traded inter-regionally on a daily basis, are quite volatile, with trade often not taking place at all. Using daily data on the carrot trade in Japan, this column shows how supply and demand shocks and trade costs can cause frequent changes in supply patterns. Policies to reduce fixed trade costs, such as improving inventory management or traffic control, are needed even in a country with sufficient transport infrastructure such as Japan.

Kazuhito Yamashita, 02 January 2016

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being held up as a model for 21st century trade agreements. This column looks into its implications for Japan. It says that agricultural sectors such as rice and beef won’t be affected as some form of protection will remain. It concludes that while the TPP may help Japan gain access to foreign markets, Japanese agriculture has lost another opportunity for revitalisation.

Alexandra L. Cermeño, 12 July 2015

Economic historians tend to explain US geographical development gaps in terms of industrialisation. But by the end of the 20th century, the richest counties had become specialised in services, rather than in manufacturing. This column evaluates how the service economy triggered this evident contrast between the urban and rural US. Market size causes localisation of non-agricultural activity, with the effect being stronger for services, especially knowledge services. Local policymakers can thus foster growth by attracting high-skilled workers to a region, with the multiplier effect eventually increasing the local market.

Samuel Marden, 28 December 2014

It is often argued that for poor countries, increases in agricultural productivity result in higher non-agricultural output, but the theory is ambiguous and the empirical evidence is limited. This column presents evidence from a natural experiment provided by China’s early 1980s agricultural reforms. Higher agricultural output induced by the reforms led to quantitatively important growth in non-agricultural output. This growth appears to be primarily due to rural savings increasing the supply of capital to the non-agricultural sector.

Avner Offer, 19 September 2014

Victory in World War I relied on three types of energy: renewable energy for food and fodder, fossil energy, and high explosive. This column argues that the Allies had a clear advantage in manpower, coal, and agriculture, but not enough for a quick decision. Mobilisation in continental economies curtailed food production, occasionally to a critical level. Technical competition was a matter of capacity for innovation, not of particular breakthroughs. Coercive military service and rationing of scarce energy and food had egalitarian consequences that continued after the war.

Jeffrey Frankel, 09 September 2014

Subsidies for food and energy are economically inefficient, but can often be politically popular. This column discusses the efforts by new leaders in Egypt, Indonesia, and India to cut unaffordable subsidies. Cutting subsidies now may even be the politically savvy choice if the alternative is shortages and an even more painful rise in the retail price in future. Ironically, it is India’s new Prime Minister Modi – elected with a large electoral mandate and much hype about market reforms – who is already shrinking from the challenge.

Margaret McMillan, 30 August 2014

Some argue that growth across Africa is fundamentally a result of rising commodity prices and that if these prices were to collapse, so too would Africa’s growth rates. This column documents substantial shifts in the occupational structure of most African economies between 2000 and 2010 and thus provides a good reason for cautious optimism about the continent’s economic progress.

Coen Teulings, 11 July 2014

The financial crisis and the Great Recession have led to calls for more economic history in economic education. This column argues for a much broader use of history in economics courses, as a device for teaching both the logic and the empirical relevance of economics. A proposed curriculum would include the rise of agriculture, urbanisation, war, the rule of law, and demography.

Carl Kitchens, 29 January 2014

Economists have found that large-scale infrastructure investments tend to increase economic growth and reduce poverty. However, there has been relatively little research on the effects of smaller, more targeted investment projects. This column discusses recent research on the effects of the US Rural Electrification Administration, which provided subsidised loans for connecting farms to the electric grid. Counties that received electricity through the REA witnessed smaller declines in agricultural productivity, smaller declines in land values, and more retail activity than similar counties that did not.

Warren Anderson, Noel Johnson, Mark Koyama, 18 February 2013

Explanations for the persecution of minorities rarely contain economic considerations. But what is the relationship between ethnic conflict and the economy? This column argues that economic factors are, in fact, important. Using historical evidence, it is clear that the persecution and expelling of Jewish people by pre-modern European states is linked to agrarian variations. Based on historical weather data, evidence suggests that during the 15th and 16th centuries, colder temperatures made it significantly more likely that a Jewish community would be expelled.

Karen Macours, Patrick Premand, Renos Vakis, 12 September 2012

Droughts in the US, India, and the Sahel are making headlines, with the farmers themselves often the first to lose out. This column presents findings from a randomised control trial exploring whether providing households with training and capital to diversify their incomes can cushion the shock of severe weather.

Denis Drechsler, 23 April 2011

Smallholders are a defining feature of African agriculture. This column argues that they deserve special attention by donors and policymakers. But simply relying on the smallholder business model is unlikely to prepare African agriculture for future challenges. Instead, smallholders should be supported to engage in commercial farming or to move out of the agricultural sector.

Thomas Hertel, Stephanie Rosch, 17 March 2011

Those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods are among the most vulnerable to climate change – they also happen to be among the world’s poorest. This column argues that policymakers have a duty to help them adapt. It adds that the near-term poverty effects of climate-mitigation policies could even be more significant than climate change itself.

Tim Josling, 09 October 2009

Tim Josling of Stanford University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about emerging challenges for the world trading system around trade in food and agriculture – including price volatility, the emergence of private food standards and the future of farm policies in developed countries. The interview was recorded in Geneva at the inaugural Thinking Ahead on International Trade conference in September 2009.

Daniel Bradlow, 24 July 2009

Land deals involving poor countries are booming and have been met with some scepticism. This column says that these transactions can bring many benefits to the host country if undertaken responsibly. It recommends rules including adequate transparency, social and environmental standards, a grievance mechanism, and a fair local distribution of the benefits.

Valentin Zahrnt, 22 July 2009

The 2013 Common Agricultural Policy reform will involve EU members competing with each other for subsidy funds. This column calculates potential CAP payments under three different reform scenarios to identify winners and losers. Several traditional defenders of the CAP are indeed likely to lose from reform, but other countries that defend the status quo would – surprisingly – gain from reform.



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