Factor endowments, vent for surplus and involutionary process in rural developing economies

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This article seeks to provide a new analytical framework based on factor endowments to understand growth in rural economies without structural transformation. More concretely, it explores the variation in farmers’ ability to respond to new commercial opportunities. To complement the extensive literature on the economic and institutional effects of factor endowments, this paper revisits two influential yet controversial theories: Mark Elvin’s high-level equilibrium trap for areas with high population densities in a closed arable frontier, and Hla Myint’s vent for surplus for areas with surpluses of land and labour. We argue that these become more operational if reinterpreted by Boserupian land intensification processes. By lifting the neo-classical constraints on factor relationships, this paper contributes by exploring the mechanisms by which factor endowments might preclude the transformation. Understanding the different dynamics of cultivation in relation to land and labour use, technological choices, saving capacity, and potential linkages to industrialization becomes of even greater significance as these areas may be found within the same countries at a given time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-74
JournalEconomic History of Developing Regions
Issue number1
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economics

Free keywords

  • agricultural intensification
  • Boserup and involution
  • Frontier economies
  • high level equilibrium trap

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