The extent to which fixed natural resources effect economic growth in the face of population growth has been a widely discussed topic in economics since at least Malthus (1798). In this dissertation, I attempt to shed light on several facets of this debate.First, I use the timing of plague epidemics as an instrument for labor supply to estimate the degree of substitutability between fixed and non-fixed factors in pre-industrial England. I find that the elasticity of substitution between land and other factors was significantly less than one, meaning the Malthusian effects of population on income were stronger than currently predicted. In addition, I estimate the direction and magnitude of induced innovation. I find that denser populations induced innovation towards land-saving technologies. Second, I assess quantitatively the effect of exogenous reductions in fertility on output per capita. I create a model based on standard components of quantitative macroeconomic theory, and parameterize the model using a combination of microeconomic estimates and data on demographics. I apply the model to examine the effect of an intervention that immediately reduces TFR by 1.0, using current Nigerian vital rates as a baseline. For a base case set of parameters, I find that an immediate decline in the TFR of 1.0 will raise output per capita by approximately 13.2% at a horizon of 20 years, and by 25.4% at a horizon of 50 years. Third, I consider whether population size alone matters for economic development. Using a CES production framework, I find that a halving of population would raise income per capita by 5.3% to 48.3%, depending on the previously estimated elasticity of substitution, and land's share of income.Finally, I ask whether exogenous changes in the world price of natural resource export commodities affects the level of democracy in a country. I find that these changes have a positive and robust effect on democracy. Using the price changes as an instrument for income, I find that income does not affect the level of democracy, contrary to the modernization theory of democratic development.
Wilde, Joshua K.,
"Essays in Population, Natural Resources, and Economic Growth"
Economics Theses and Dissertations.
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