This paper, written by John W. Mc Arthur and Gordon C. McCord, estimates the role of agronomic inputs in cereal yield improvements and the consequences for countries’ processes of structural change. The results suggest a clear role for fertilizer, modern seeds and water in boosting yields. We then test for respective empirical links between agricultural yields and economic growth, labor share in agriculture and non-agricultural value added per worker. The identification strategy includes a novel instrumental variable that exploits the unique economic geography of fertilizer production and transport costs to countries’ agricultural heartlands. We estimate that a half ton increase in staple yields generates a 14 to 19 percent higher GDP per capita and a 4.6 to 5.6 percentage point lower labor share in agriculture five years later. The results suggest a strong role for agricultural productivity as a driver of structural change.
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