114/2013 Anastasia Litina
This research advances the hypothesis that reversal of fortunes in the process of economic development can be traced to the effect of natural land productivity on the desirable level of cooperation in the agricultural sector. In early stages of development, unfavourable land endowment enhanced the economic incentive for cooperation in the creation of agricultural infrastructure that could mitigate the adverse effect of the natural environment. Nevertheless, despite the beneficial effects of cooperation on the intensive margin of agriculture, low land productivity countries lagged behind during the agricultural stage of development. However, as cooperation, and its persistent effect on social capital, have become increasingly important in the process of industrialization, the transition from agriculture to industry among unfavorable land endowment economies was expedited, permitting those economies that lagged behind in the agricultural stage of development, to overtake the high land productivity economies in the industrial stage of development. Exploiting exogenous sources of variations in land productivity across countries the research further explores the testable predictions of the theory. It establishes that: (i) reversal of fortunes in the process of development can be traced to variation in natural land productivity across countries. Economies characterized by favourable land endowment dominated the world economy in the agricultural stage of development but were overtaken in the process of industrialization; (ii) lower level of land productivity in the past is associated with higher levels of contemporary social capital; (iii) cooperation, as reflected by agricultural infrastructure, emerged primarily in places were land was not highly productive and collective action could have diminished the adverse effects of the environment and enhance agricultural output.