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American Economic Review: Vol. 102 No. 3 (May 2012)

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Nature versus Nurture: The Environment's Persistent Influence through the Modernization of American Agriculture

Article Citation

Hornbeck, Richard. 2012. "Nature versus Nurture: The Environment's Persistent Influence through the Modernization of American Agriculture." American Economic Review, 102(3): 245-49.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.102.3.245

Abstract

Technological innovation in agriculture was substantial during the 20th century. Is "modern" technological control of the environment replacing a "primitive" dependency on natural advantages and disadvantages, or has agricultural production remained persistently dependent on the environment? This paper estimates how the 20th century modernization of United States Plains' agriculture changed the impact of environmental characteristics on agricultural land values. Despite substantial technological innovation and rising land values from 1945 to 2002, counties' environmental characteristics largely maintained influence on land values. Environmental change has become no less costly, as technological innovation has not reduced the importance of natural advantages or disadvantages.

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Authors

Hornbeck, Richard (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

O33: Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
Q15: Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
Q16: Agricultural R&D; Agricultural Technology; Biofuels; Agricultural Extension Services


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