The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment
We exploit regional variation in suitability for cultivating potatoes, together with time variation arising from their introduction to the Old World from the Americas, to estimate the impact of potatoes on Old World population and urbanization. Our results show that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a significant portion of the increase in population and urbanization observed during the 18th and 19th centuries.
We thank David Canning, Greg Clark, Angus Deaton, Azim Essaji, Andrew Foster, Oded Galor, Claudia Goldin, Larry Katz, Wolfgang Keller, Joel Mokyr, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, Yona Rubinstein, Andrei Shleifer, Peter Temin, and David Weil for valuable feedback and discussions. We also thank seminar participants at Bocconi University, Boston University, Brown University, Harvard University, MIT, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Tufts University, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, BREAD, CEA Annual Meetings, ISNIE Annual Conference, and NEUDC Annual Conference. We thank Sayon Deb for excellent research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
"The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment" Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian Quarterly Journal of Economics (2011) 126 (2): 593-650. citation courtesy of