Agriculture, Transportation and the Timing of Urbanization: Global Analysis at the Grid Cell Level

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 14-002/VIII

54 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014  

Mesbah Motamed

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Raymond J.G.M. Florax

Purdue University; VU University Amsterdam - Department of Spatial Economics; Tinbergen Institute

William A. Masters

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Tufts University - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 29, 2013

Abstract

This paper addresses the timing of a location's historical transition from rural to urban activity. We test whether urbanization occurs sooner in places with higher agricultural potential and comparatively lower transport costs, using worldwide data that divide the earth's surface at half-degree intervals into 62,290 cells. From an independent estimate of each cell's rural and urban population history over the last 2,000 years, we identify the date at which each cell achieves various thresholds of urbanization. Controlling for unobserved heterogeneity across countries through fixed effects and using a variety of spatial econometric techniques, we find a robust association between earlier urbanization and agro-climatic suitability for cultivation, having seasonal frosts, better access to the ocean or navigable rivers, and lower elevation. These geographic correlations become smaller in magnitude as urbanization proceeds, and there is some variance in effect sizes across continents. Aggregating cells into countries, we show that an earlier urbanization date is associated with higher per capita income today.

Keywords: Economic growth, economic geography, urbanization, agriculture, transportation

JEL Classification: C21, N50, O11, O18, R1

Suggested Citation

Motamed, Mesbah and Florax, Raymond J.G.M. and Masters, William A., Agriculture, Transportation and the Timing of Urbanization: Global Analysis at the Grid Cell Level (November 29, 2013). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 14-002/VIII. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374296 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2374296

Mesbah Motamed (Contact Author)

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ( email )

1 Credit Union Place, Suite 320
Harrisburg, PA 17110
United States

Raymond J.G.M. Florax

Purdue University ( email )

West Lafayette, IN 47907-1145
United States
(765) 494-4300 (Phone)
(765) 494-9176 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~rflorax/

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Spatial Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081HV Amsterdam
Netherlands
+31 20 444 6092 (Phone)
+31 20 444 6004 (Fax)

Tinbergen Institute

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

William A. Masters

Tufts University - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy ( email )

150 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02111
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.tufts.edu/willmasters

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

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