Beyond Dualism: Agricultural Productivity, Small Towns, and Structural Change in Bangladesh

31 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2017

See all articles by M. Shahe Emran

M. Shahe Emran

George Washington University - Department of Economics

Forhad Shilpi

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

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Date Written: January 1, 2017


This paper uses a framework that goes beyond rural-urban dualism and highlights the role of small town economy (STE) in understanding structural change in a rural economy such as Bangladesh. It provides a theoretical and empirical analysis of the role of agricultural productivity in structural transformation in the labor market, with a focus on the differences between a village economy and a small town economy. The empirical work is based on a general equilibrium model that formalizes the demand and labor market linkages: the STE draws labor away from the rural areas to produce goods and services whose demand may depend largely on rural income. The theory clarifies the role played by the income elasticity of demand and the elasticity of wage with respect to productivity increase in agriculture. For productivity growth to lead to a demand effect, the elasticity of wage has to be lower than a threshold. When the demand for goods and services produced in small towns comes mainly from the adjacent rural areas, the demand effect can more than offset the negative wage effect and lead to higher labor allocation to the production of town good. Using rainfall as an instrument for agricultural productivity, the empirical analysis finds a significant positive effect of agricultural productivity shock on rice yield and agricultural wages. The evidence shows that productivity shock increases wages more in the rural sample when compared to the STE sample. But structural change in employment is more pronounced in the STE sample. In the rural sample, it increases employment only in small scale manufacturing and services. In contrast, a positive productivity shock has large and positive impacts on employment in construction and transport, education, health and other services, and manufacturing employment in larger scale enterprises located in small towns and cities. Agricultural productivity growth is found to induce structural transformation within the services sector in small towns, with employment in skilled services growing at a faster pace than that of low-skilled services.

Keywords: Agricultural Productivity, Small Town Economy, Dualism, Employment in Large Firms, Employment Growth, Structural Transformation

JEL Classification: O13, O14, O17, O18

Suggested Citation

Emran, M. Shahe and Shilpi, Forhad, Beyond Dualism: Agricultural Productivity, Small Towns, and Structural Change in Bangladesh (January 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

M. Shahe Emran (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Washington, DC 20052
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Forhad Shilpi

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

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Washington, DC 20433
United States
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202-522-1151 (Fax)

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